Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2009-04-03 23:55

Written by: Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head, Sarah Brightman and Paris Hilton

Reviewed by: Josh G.

After watching Tim Burton’s updated musical version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and being stunned at how remarkable it was, I was in the position to believe that anything was possible. Can horror and music really work together? As the gothic opera fantasy film Repo! The Genetic Opera proves yet again, yes it can. In this day of countless Saw films and ripoffs, Twisted Pictures manages to outdo its line of torture work with just one magical movie, one set in the not-too-distant future with big names such as Paris Hilton and Paul Sorvino. What happens when you can’t pay a debt for something you cannot physically give back? Why, the repo man comes to forcibly remove it from your possession...even if it means a brutal edged quick surgery. Mix it with modern rock and opera, and what do you get? An experience like no other.

When the world is overcome by a recurring epidemic of organ failures, powerful company GeneCo lends a helping hand to those who need replacements, giving the patients a payment plan in which they fulfill over time. But if a payment is missed, Repo men are sent in to retrieve the organs by any and all means! President of GeneCo Rotti Largo (Sorvino), father of three, is dying, and needs to figure out who will inherit his enterprise when he has left. Although he has his bratty children, he soon seeks the presence of Shilo (Alexa Vega), a seventeen-year-old girl who acquired a blood disease from her deceased mother when she was born. Unbeknownst to her, her overprotective father Nathan (Anthony Head) is a Repo man by contract, snatching spines, intestines, and other such things for return to the organization. Nathan blames himself for his wife Marni’s death when Shilo was born for trying to cure her of her blood disease when she was giving birth. Shockingly, the truth is that Rotti Largo, who was Marni’s lover before she married Nathan, devised a plan to taint Nathan’s cure in revenge for Marni’s betrayal with poison. Now, Marni’s best friend, opera singer Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), is forced into a corner by a GeneCo contract to be a lover to Rotti thanks to his position that gave her sight. Sick people and a celebrity in peril by a dangerous corporation whose defence will shoot you down and take your kidneys out! It’s Repo! The Genetic Opera!

Many have and will say that this film is no good for two main reasons. For one, “musicals are stupid”, as well as “Paris Hilton sucks at acting and singing”. The former is incorrect, as the music heightens the layered (but easy to follow) story to an even bigger enjoyment. The twists are often revealed earlier on, and the plot for a regular film is nothing groundbreaking when you look at its core: rich bitter ex abuses power and kills the lady who depressed him, manipulating the ‘other man’ and taking his ex’s best friend as the trophy who draws crowds with her beauty. The step up from other films similarly like it is the already established dark opera element with the original repossessing assassin curve ball and scenes designed just like a high quality stage show, only better. Fashion has been taken into great care with the beautiful clothing adorning the richer women and make-up effects for this new technological age. Red lights, blue lights, purple and more. What, did the Italians make this or something?

The second statement, one involving Paris Hilton, is one you will always get regarding anything she is a part of. Playing the drug and surgery addicted daughter of Rotti Largo, Amber Sweet, Paris won a Razzie Award for her horrible performance in Repo!. Funny thing is, she’s not bad at all. No outstanding ovations mind you, but her singing is as good as every other actor in this (fantastic Sorvino and Brightman aside) and holds her own being...well, being herself really. An improvement over her work in House of Wax, which wasn’t too shabby to being with. It’s fun to see her and her two brothers fight amongst each other, especially when the angry Luigi Largo (Bill Moseley) starts to insult Pavi Largo (Ogre) in a war that is accepting to be comical at times. How characters interact with one another through singing (they always sing by the way) is thrilling to sit through, and every scene has a level of energy that leaves you in good hands.

Back story is told to us through small minute comic book sequences that have the narrator inform us on what’s up to date. From here, we are left to make up our own decisions, like on whether or not Nathan is really a good man even though he slices victims with his blade for the corrupt directions of a mad company. Blind Mag is a creeper with her enhanced glass-like eyes staring back at you, but her life in jeopardy and her care for Shilo’s safety make Mag the celebrity that you want to see succeed in her profession. She also holds the strongest musical performance in her confrontation with Shilo and her father at their house. Contrasting with the evil Rotti and his Largos shows the varying percentage of what purity there is in the handful of citizens living here. Shilo, who is seen as the heroine of the film, is like a canary in a cage, put in there by her owner Nathan. She wants to be free even though her disease leaves her a bit frail, and riding in the limo with Rotti is a scenario that I congratulate the makers on for placing in as it keeps the tension where good and bad is always on the opposite sides of the wall from each other. The final scene ends at the opera, a spectacle that many are waiting for in the film. A big event, one where I see traits similar to that of today’s; celebrity singers do screw up and get booed, and things that are not supposed to happen get brushed off as the real thing, all for appearances. “It’s all part of the show.” Ha!

I thought that this was by far one of the most thrilling films I've seen made in the past few years; the music was catchy and the characters were a mild step above other films with their wackiness, extreme emotion, and oddities. The real strength that Repo! is built on is the organ replacement plot, which is the main. That's a fucking creepy thing to think of: people hunting you down, and then tearing your body to bits in search of a certain section that they originally put in. Would you like to watch a mysterious bounty man tear your spleen, heart, or intestines out from your body while you are still screaming? No decency to kill you first; the priority is on the money, which here is in the form of your body's mechanics. Brutal as the concept is, when it's mixed with the rock opera songs, there's a sort of cinematic beauty to it all. I felt more alive after living through this film than practically any film I’ve seen made in the past ten years minimum. There are so many dimensions to care for that you can pick and choose which you follow. Will it be the theme, musical numbers, or something deeper? (Maybe it is the dancing skeleton with a wig during Shilo’s “Seventeen” number?) Repo! The Genetic Opera is a violent and grisly turn on a different version of a story that I’m sure has happened before in life, give or take some details. I think that the reason Repo! will become a cult classic for years to become is because once it is over, you know that you’ve seen a well shot, stunning splash of a unique collaboration that is active and has the potential to be ‘genetic’. Who knows. Perhaps a later future in the horror genre will be musicals. Only time will tell. Lionsgate’s ‘A’ grade presentation of its DVD has two audio commentaries, two featurettes, and a theatrical trailer, which this galvanic entertainer completely deserves. Not quite as good as Burton’s Sweeney Todd, Genetic Opera ranks close and is one of this decade’s brightest. I’m pleased to sing...iiiitttt’s soooo veeerrryy Essential!

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