18 March 2009

Movie Review: Repo! The Genetic Opera


Repo! The Genetic Opera
2008, 98mins, R
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writer (s): Darren Smith, Terrance Zdunich
Cast includes: Anthony Head, Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino, Paris Hilton
Release Date: 7th November 2008 (limited)

Repo! The Genetic Opera is far from a perfect film or for that matter a perfect musical, many of its performances are patchy and the songs themselves are decidedly hit and miss. Still thanks to its absolute inability to conform to any genre preconception this rock opera provides a fun time and demonstrates that even as all else crumbles around you originality will always keep a film interesting

In the not-so-distant future a disease has wiped out large parts of the population by destroying their internal organs. Survivors need replacements and so enter GeneCo, a company who can manufacture organs on demand, but at a high price. Organs aren’t cheap, and GeneCo maintains complete control of this newfound industry and offers a payment plan like no other. Those that fall behind in their financing will be visited by a Repo man, who will remove GeneCo’s property from the cheapskate owner. One such Repo man is Nathan (Anthony Head), who hides his dubious profession from his infected 17-year-old daughter Shilo (Alexa Vega). Nathan’s intentions are always good where his daughter is concerned, who has a blood disease inherited from her deceased mother, so he keeps her locked in their house. However, she escapes outside and begins to learn of the ominous connections between her father, her disease, and Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), the head of GeneCo.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is a crazed and frankly demented musical which under the watchful eye of Saw saga director Darren Lynn Bousman never veers away from its overtly violent and sexual overtones. The film has a lot of cool ideas bopping about in its head and in a year where Mamma Mia! made the musical popular again one hopes Bousman’s template for fresh concepts can be injected into further genre pieces. That’s not to say it’s a flawless property as had Repo! failed to reach the levels of unapologetic craziness it hits, then I expect it would be a far less tolerable effort.

The performances are a decidedly unbalanced, on one side you have several really effective efforts and on the other a handful of less impressive ones. Anthony Head is good value as Nathan delivering several of the pictures most kick ass and memorable musical scenes, whilst also managing to plug some emotional gravitas into his conflicted anti-hero. Paul Sorvino is a harder commodity to appreciate as the head of Geneco, he can sing fairly well but his acting leaves something to be desired and none of his melody moments feel to be amongst the pictures best. As the young heroine Alexa Vega isn’t particularly good, the viewers interest and sympathy always seems to be with her struggling father thus compromising much of what the actress attempts to do. As Sorvino’s spoilt and bratty daughter Paris Hilton just plays herself, but seeing as that is all the picture demands she gets away with it. Finally as Opera starlet and woman with a mysterious connection to Shilo, Sarah Brightman sings well and conveys intriguing oddity even better.

The music can be in turn joyful and then on other occasions just unmemorable. Most of the best beats come courtesy of Head who has proven himself multiple times as a talented vocalist; “Thankless Job” is gothic and highly listenable whilst the likes of “Zydrate Anatomy” and “We Started this Op’ra shit” also hit a chaotic yet incredibly fun note. The music is pretty much non-stop in Repo! the screenplay is contented to tell the story entirely through the rock anthems and Bousman’s eye for visual flair, further adding to the unique nature of the article. Granted it doesn’t always work as proven by the horrid “Seventeen” but a lot of the time it does, increasing the value of this venture tenfold in the process.

Horror fans will probably feel a little shortchanged, there is plenty of gore and the drained directorial palette feels eerie and imposing but in the form of genuine shocks and scares Repo! intentionally seems uninterested. Bousman’s wants the story fleshed out over the needless moments of generic convention that peppered his Saw sequels, instead the occasionally touching if overly primitive narrative takes absolute precedence. It’s hard to discern if Repo! is genuinely making comment on the increasing trend that is plastic surgery or just using it as a plot device, at points it seems that the script is heading for lampoon territory but on other chances it seems to squander perfectly sharp opportunities for satire on the subject. Repo! is clearly gunning for cult movie status and with its fresh perspective there is a fair chance it could land such a title in the future. It’s fun, original and at times bitterly ironic concerning it juxtaposing genres all facets that devotees of the weird and wonderful are likely to love. Still one cannot completely overlook the flaws that also are strewn around and for my money Repo! is a few great songs short to stand a chance of achieving the cult following it so blatantly hopes to pander to. Still if you’re looking for something new and with a respectable degree of enjoyment tricked up its sleeves, I’ll definitely provide this effort with a modest recommendation.

A film review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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