I had heard much about this movie musical ‘Repo! The Genetic Opera’ with many an Internet reviewing website placing this film in its top ten lists for 2008… with a few placing in its ‘worst of’ list as well. My concern whenever I see a movie such as this, one that is markedly different in conception and execution, is that some people will heap praises on it simply for no other reason than it’s markedly different. Fortunately for us, after finally getting around to seeing Darren Lynn Bousman’s rock opera, whatever praise ‘Repo! The Genetic Opera’ has garnered is richly deserved as this is one of the most creative and ultimately entertaining movies we’ve seen in a long time.
Sometime in the not too distant future, our crappy way of living has finally caught up to us as disease has run rampant, savaging our bodies, and causing our vital organs to fail at an alarming rate. Thank goodness for Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) and his company GeneCo who has saved the day by effectively creating artificial organs, organs that are more efficient than the originals, and have stemmed the ravages of this awful, awful disease. But GeneCo has done much more than simply replace damaged organs, it will replace healthy organs to make better ones, they have technology that can make you taller, change the color of your skin and all kinds of other glorious genetic upgrades.
As you might imagine getting these upgrades can be expensive but GeneCo has implemented a nice little credit program which will allow you to get whatever you want whenever you want… but one really should keep up with their payments if at all possible because if you don’t you will meet the Repo Man and nobody wants that.
Thus this is the story of widowed Repo Man Dr. Nathan Wallace (Anthony Stewart Head) and his sickly teenage daughter Shiloh (Alexa Vega). Shiloh is unaware of her over protective father’s night job and simply wants to see the world that thrives outside her bedroom. This is also something Rotti Largo wants for her as well, but not because he’s has a big open and loving nature about him but because he wants to destroy her
father, his most efficient Repo Man, who he despises for the most personal of reasons. Plus he’s looking for someone to take over his company considering he also doesn’t care too much for his extremely suspect children who consists of his pathologically violent son Luigi (Bill Mosely), his surgically addicted daughter Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton) and his youngest son with the rotating face Pavi (Nivek Ogre).
So the family drama plays out, through song of course, amidst the singing narration of the drug dealing Graverobber (Terence Zdunich) with the terrible truth to be revealed to all on the biggest night of the year, the GeneCo hosted Genetic Opera!
It is relatively rare that I read about any movie before watching it, mainly to preserve my objectivity and lessen any influence but I read more about this movie before actually watching it than almost any movie ever. The primary reason is because I had no intention to actually watch the movie so I merely observed as the battle lines were drawn. And these lines are pretty clear in that the majority of the national press absolutely despises this poor little film while the more boutique reviewers out there have nothing but mad love for ‘Repo!’ So while I fall short from proclaiming ‘mad love’ for ‘Repo! The Genetic Opera’ I will say that it was a unique and fun cinematic experience.
The first thing that jumps at you from the first minute this movie starts is the sheer amount of energy that it puts out. It just shoots right out the gate, driven mostly by the spirited and driving metal tinged pop music, spirited song and dance numbers and Bousman’s frenetic shooting style makes for an experience that could be construed as a ninety minute music video. Normally this type of presentation would be something I would find incredibly irritating but the story is effectively told through the songs, and told reasonably well, so the frenetic editing of the film actually helped matters more than detracted from the production.
Then there were the production values themselves which overall were very well presented with its dark gothic look and eerie, smoky cinematography. Combined with fine vocal performances from Anthony Steward Head, Paul Sorvino and even the much maligned Paris Hilton… poor Paris… and you have a movie that’s almost as much fun to watch as it is to listen to.
Since this is a musical with few speaking parts the movie can only be a strong as its musical selection and I’d say that 80 percent of the songs were pretty decent with the other 20 percent being absolutely banal. Now for full disclosures sake I don’t particularly care for this style of music, but I found it worked perfectly for the subject matter for the most part, but there were a few sections were the music and lyrics were rather suspect and there were times that the filmmakers had difficulty hiding the overall weakness of star Alexa Vega’s voice. Though acting wise she seemed a fine choice for the role.
I don’t know if ‘Repo! The Genetic Opera’ is going to be the revered cult classic that it seems to be aiming for, but for a gore filled Rock Opera, it is one unique and enjoyable film watching experience.