Alex Cox is one of the clearest demonstrations of Hollywood acceptance being reserved for fuck-ups and retards. As the director of Repo Man, the consummate 1984 film about the grim and lurid existence of a Los Angeles denizen, Cox quickly established his rebellious and kitsch-heavy style. The film was long due for a sequel, with rumors swirling that David Lynch would be the one to direct it. After much fanfare and anticipation, Repo Chick, written and directed by the same comedic mastermind behind the original, premiered at The Venice Film Festival in 2009. Because Universal Studios owns the rights to the original Repo Man, Cox was given a cease and desist notice in 2008 when they learned of the production. However, since Repo Chick uses none of the characters from the 1984 incarnation of the film, Cox ignored warnings from the studio to terminate production.
And rightly so, considering the film's plot has very little bearing on the original. Pixxi De La Chasse (Jaclyn Joney), the heroine of Cox’s story, is a disinherited heiress who suddenly discovers her latent talent for repossessing everything from cars to shopping mall square footage. As is the norm for Cox, Repo Chick is laden with attacks on the nature of an economic downturn and the implications of those who benefit from it. Far from being anything akin to Repo Man, the film still managed to generate interest from David Lynch’s production company, Industrial Entertainment, for limited distribution, followed by an immediate DVD release. And, while Repo Chick may not have the landmark cultural presence of people like Emilio Estevez or local L.A. bands like the Circle Jerks, and was predominantly filmed in front of a green screen, it has definitely repossessed the fiercely independent spirit that Alex Cox is renowned for.
Cox's career has been one of the most peculiar in terms of being able to share a brief dalliance with studio enthusiasm. After Repo Man, Cox continued his renegade motif with Sid and Nancy in 1986. This film, with Gary Oldman's acting credentials to buffer its "gritty" (by studio standards) feel, was a sign of Cox's impending work--and the impending reaction it was to receive.
As is the Coxian norm, the film followed Repo Man's suit in featuring a litany of significant musicians, including Nico, Courtney Love (before she was technically a musician), and, once again, the Circle Jerks. Never one to pass up the opportunity of conveying some sort of message, Cox noted that the approach he took to retelling the much speculated about death of Nancy Spungen was intended to demystify the glamour of the duo's heroin-based love. Cox told the New Musical Express:
"We wanted to make the film not just about Sid Vicious and punk rock, but as an anti-drugs statement, to show the degradation caused to various people is not at all glamorous."
This would be the last time that Cox could get away with his directorial propensities and still have them be deemed commercially viable by Universal. Following Sid and Nancy was Straight to Hell in 1987, an homage to the spaghetti western genre that Cox had always been so fond of. Featuring Cox favorites Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Sy Richardson, and Miguel Sandoval, the movie takes place in a Jodorowsky-esque locale (it was filmed in Almeria, Spain) and follows a gang of robbers who hide out there after a heist.
From 1987 on, it seemed that Cox was doomed to go on a downward spiral in his Hollywood ranking. Increasingly, Cox came to viewed as some sort of movie industry miscreant. Films like Walker, El Patrullero, and Death and the Compass unfortunately lost Cox a marketable audience--in spite of the fact that his talent flourished, but was simply misunderstood by those still expecting another version of Repo Man every time his next film would be released.
The most recent--and unusual--chapter in Cox's life has been his recent acceptance of a teaching position at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Most filmmakers cannot sugar coat the notion that once you've agreed to teach at a university, it tends to be for dire financial needs as opposed to a strong craving to instruct and mold minds. Especially the grandiose and egotistical minds of film students. Even so, there is some kind of poetry in the idea that Cox will be in Colorado, just on the periphery of California, where all of those golden film dreams are guarded by lesser men.