Nivek Ogre, Bill Moseley
- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Lionsgate
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
arren Lynn Bousman might not be the most accomplished director in the business, but you have to give him credit for persuading movie executives to allow him to make a film like “Repo! The Genetic Opera.” He already had a pretty comfortable gig working on the “Saw” films (one that Lionsgate would have no doubt offered him to continue), but instead, he used his status within the studio as a means of reviving the rock opera with one of the riskiest, most ambitious projects in recent years. A strange marrying of “Blade Runner” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Repo! The Genetic Opera” is one of the most original musicals ever created. Unfortunately, it’s also wildly uneven, because while there’s plenty to admire about Bousman’s self-proclaimed passion project, there’s just as much to hate as well.
The film takes place in a not-too-distant future where an epidemic of organ failures has resulted in a company called GeneCo stepping in to offer transplant surgeries at an affordable price. Those who miss their payments, however, are scheduled for repossession and hunted down by Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head), a GeneCo-employed Repo Man who will slit your throat and take back for the company what is rightfully theirs. When he’s not slicing up indebted clients, however, Nathan is busy protecting his teenage daughter, Shilo (Alexa Vega), whom he keeps locked up in the house due to a rare blood disease that she inherited from her dead mother. On the other side of town, GeneCo founder Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) has just been told that he’s dying, and while his three kids – Luigi (Bill Moseley), Pavi (Nivek Ogre) and Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton) – fight over who will take charge of the company, he plots to expose the secret behind Shiloh’s family history at the Genetic Opera.
To say any more would be to give away all of the dramatic twists that you expect from a typical opera, and though the story may seem intricate, it actually works quite well in the context of the world in which it's set. Unfortunately, there’s so much backstory that Bousman must resort to using comic panel flashbacks to better explain how Rotti, Nathan, and his wife’s best friend, Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), fit into each other’s lives. Also used in a lengthy introduction setting up the film, the comic panels are distracting and slow down the otherwise speedy runtime. It really makes you wonder how those sections were portrayed in the stage version, because while the addition of the comic panels may sound creative, they come off looking flat in comparison to the film's fantastic costumes and production design.
For as cool as “Repo!” looks, the most important element is still the music, and this is what ultimately stands in the way of the film making the most of its potential. There are only a handful of good songs throughout (including “Zydrate Anatomy” and “I Didn’t Know I Love You So Much”) and a majority of them appear in the second half. Some songs aren’t really songs at all, but just dialogue being spoken in tune, while others suffer from guys like Paul Sorvino and Bill Moseley singing them. Sorvino may be a trained opera singer, but he tries to apply that technique to every song he performs, while Moseley makes Pierce Brosnan sound like an angel.
Thankfully, the rest of the cast does a good enough job that it doesn’t hurt the credibility of the film as much as it probably should. Anthony Stewart Head and Alexa Vega are great in their respective roles, while Sarah Brightman and co-writer Terrance Zdunich (who also plays the story’s narrator, Graverobber) steal every scene they’re in. Even Paris Hilton manages to rise to the occasion with a performance that’s far better than you could imagine. The film’s strengths never quite outweigh its weakness, however, because while “Repo! The Genetic Opera” had the makings of a cult classic, it gets in its own way far too often to succeed.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
It may not have done very much business in theaters, but Lionsgate hasn’t completely forgotten about the film’s cult appeal. The single-disc release contains two commentary tracks (one with director Darren Lynn Bousman and actors Alexa Vega, Bill Moseley and Ogre, and another with Bousman and co-creators Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich), a making-of featurette (“From Stage to Screen”), and a webisode on the Repo Man (“Legal Assassin”), while the Blu-ray edition includes even more goodies like a Paris Hilton commentary and video sing-a-longs.