Repo! The Genetic Opera

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

> > Mar 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera - Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
By Scott TavenerLike the Shitty Beatles (see Wayne's World), Repo! The Genetic Opera is not a clever name. During an epidemic of organ failure, surgical giant GeneCo revolutionizes body part replacement, making it chic and establishing a corporate monarchy in the process. To deal with non-paying surgery addicts, it unleashes legal assassins called Repo Men. Did I mention that it's an opera? The plot follows a Repo Man's (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Stewart Head) strained relationship with his afflicted daughter (Alexa Vega), as well as a power struggle within doomed CEO Rotti Largo's (Paul Sorvino playing a sinister, baritone version of his Fulgencio Capulet) deranged family. Regrettably, the plot is little more than a vessel for the music. Thematically concerned with duality, parallels pervade, from the overt (Nathan and the Repo Man, Nathan and Rotti, etc.) to the subtle (the external and internal). However, this is not a film of intellectual arguments; it is pretty though. Aesthetically, Repo blends Blade Runner, steam punk and Tim Burton gothic, throwing in Victorian and L.A. rock touches and ending up with something entirely unique in the process. The art department has created an insular and novel universe that's frequently stunning. Though shot on Toronto soundstages, the visuals never suggest reality and that's the point. Unfortunately, these vibrant vistas cannot compensate for the thin storyline. For a film that has almost no spoken dialogue, the soundtrack has a discouraging lack of hooks. Evidently, in the future everyone loves industrial/opera fusion with occasional, ill-advised doses of pop punk (the Joan Jett cameo makes sense). Playground sing-along "Zydrate Anatomy," sweet blood-drenched ballad "Genetic Emancipation" and sweeping centrepiece "Night Surgeon" stand out but three out of 57 isn't a very good ratio. Most of the cast does an admirable job with archetypal characters. Notably Head, as Nathan/the Repo Man, fleshes out his dual role with believable confliction. As his daughter, Vega is a convincing ingénue and singer Sarah Brightman, well, plays a singer (it's not much of a stretch). Particularly impressive, Paris Hilton — you read that right — slyly plays a potential heiress with self-reflexive aplomb. Still, despite the strong cast and insistent power chords, Repo remains slight. Regardless of the film's many weaknesses, the DVD package is well-rounded, with oft-insightful comedy from main players and a solid "making of" featurette. The latter illustrates how two musicians and an earnest filmmaker turned a short barroom musical into a feature-length film. It's a compelling story that features almost no industrial/opera.
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