It's a no-brainer to point out its relevance to the health care debate, but the premise of "Repo Men" is such a logical extension of real-life trends that it plays less like sci-fi than a big-budget illustration of the perils of unconstrained medical costs.

In this near-future world, medical technology has improved to the point that getting a new heart or liver is as easy as visiting a car dealership.

Paying for it is another matter, with familiar-looking lenders charging obscene interest rates and, when borrowers get behind, sending out men to retrieve those life-giving artificial organs ("forgs," they're called for short).

An opening voiceover about the philosophical paradox of Schrödinger's cat might set off alarms, suggesting the filmmakers are intent on showing you how smart they are. But in fact director Miguel Sapochnik admirably underplays some of the script's best ideas.

The repo process, for instance, perfectly embodies the false courtesies with which corporations pretend to care about their customers: The man who comes to take your liver uses a Taser to immobilize you, not a gun, and he offers to call an ambulance after (the movie's quite graphic on this) slicing you open and pulling out the organ.

After all, he's just reclaiming company property, not trying to kill you. Death is just an unfortunate side effect of not having a liver anymore.

Jude Law plays a hardened repo guy who winds up in need of a new heart himself and, after the transplant, discovers new sympathy for the deadbeats he has pursued throughout his career.

To the dismay of his partner Forest Whitaker and his boss Liev Schreiber (channeling the merciless salesmanship of his Broadway performance in "Glengarry Glen Ross"), Law goes on the lam in one of the rats'-nest ghettos where people hide from repo men. Hooking up with a lounge singer (Alice Braga, "City of God") whose body is equal parts forg and original, he lives as a fugitive and looks for ways out of the mess.

The film's title is unfortunate, unnecessarily similar to that of Alex Cox's cult classic "Repo Man." But other references to earlier films aren't as problematic as they first appear: "Repo Men" seems to go off the rails toward the end, with jarring swipes from "Oldboy," "Videodrome" and others, but the sensationalism isn't as cheap as it first appears.

In the end, action and imagination mesh almost seamlessly to deliver a message that could hardly be more timely.

Rating: R for violence, language. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Theaters: Alamo Lake Creek, Barton Creek, Cinemark Cedar Park, Cinemark Galleria,Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Southpark Meadows, Gateway, Highland, Lakeline, Metropolitan, Starplex, Tinseltown Pflugerville.