Saturday, January 24, 2009

DVD Review: "Repo! The Genetic Opera"

Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saw II, III & IV, made this oddity, based on the stage show by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich. Repo! The Genetic Opera is a difficult film to describe. It takes place 50 years from now, after an epidemic of organ failures has wiped out much of the population. Geneco, a biomedical corporation, steps in to save humanity, providing organ replacements with easy finance terms. The catch is, if you fall behind on your payments, they send the Repoman to take back their organs. The easy terms have also led to surgical addictions and as well as addiction to a pain killer developed by Geneco and made cheaply on the streets by dealers who extract the drug from the bodies of the dead. Part Steampunk fantasy, part Neo-Goth Sci-Fi and part rock-opera, Repo! is all bizarre and features an equally bizarre cast.
Film veteran Paul Sorvino plays Rotti Largo, founder of Geneco. When he finds out that he is dying, Rotti must decide which of his insane children should inherit the company. There is Luigi (Bill Mosely of The Devil's Rejects), a psychotic; Pavi (Ogre from the bands Skinny Puppy and Ministry), who keeps replacing his face and Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), a surgery-addicted spoiled brat. Meanwhile, Shilo (Alexa Vega of the Spy Kids movies) is a sickly young thing, basically held prisoner by her father, a doctor who is trying to keep her safe from the evils of the world. Unbeknownst to Shilo, her father Nathan (Buffy's Anthony Head) is indebted to Largo and acts as the company's Repoman, killing deadbeats and removing the organs that belong to Geneco. 'Popera' star (and former wife of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) Sarah Brightman, is on hand as Blind Mag, Geneco's spokeswoman and star of the Genetic Opera, who was once best friends with Shilo's late mother, Marni. Zdunich reprises his stage role as the Grave Robber, drawing pain killer residue from the brains of the dead.
The film looks like no other you've seen, and Bousman combines CGI, physical FX and a slew of period styles to create what looks like a movie that should have been made in the '80's - I can imagine Billy Idol and Adam Ant in more than one role, here. The music and lyrics are (sadly) boring and generic, though two numbers at the finale actually made me perk up a bit. Sorvino should never sing, and thankfully he speak-sings most of his songs (though he wears a rather silly pony-tailed wig). Head has a terrific voice (as displayed in Buffy's excellent musical episode) and does his best to keep from laughing at how silly the whole thing is. Hilton has the film's funniest moment, when her face literally falls off on stage at the opera: a telling comment on the futility of vanity. Zdunich seems like he's a rather handsome fellow underneath his white-faced Goth makeup, though he sings his role with an extreme earnestness that makes you want to say "Dude. Really? Get over yourself." Brightman's fantastic voice is wasted here, though is best on display towards the end of the film ,where she actually gets to sing some opera.
While highly anticipated by genre fans, the movie had a limited theatrical release, though I'm sure that distributor Lion's Gate had high hopes for a cult hit (as did I).
I'm still not sure what to think of Repo! The Genetic Opera. I suppose I wanted to like it more than I did and I'm usually a fan of experimental and outre cult movies, but it all seemed so silly and derivative, I just couldn't work up the kind of enthusiasm I had expected to have for it. ** 1/2 (Two and a Half Stars out of Four).
More, anon.

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