Sunday, 5 December 2010

Repo the Genetic Opera

My new obssession and a very random one indeed, I had never even heard of this little gem until a couple of weeks ago and it was purely by luck that I stumbled across it. I found a pic of Luigi Largo on deviantART and was intrigued enough to Google the character and thus I sprung upon Repo, a violent, operatic movie that had a limited theatrical release and seems to be something more of a cult favourite, unfairly overshadowed by the complete rip-off Repo Men, which was a bloody awful movie.

Repo the Genetic Opera is a film that came out in 2008 directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of the Saw films fame (number 2 onwards). Set in 2056 it shows a grim Gothic world where organ failures has become common, devastating the world. Bringing hope to the world is GenCo a biotech company which offers organ transplants. It sounds simple but of course there's a price to pay, if you cannot afford the repayments of the organ then the Repo Man will come and collect the organ you owe.

Running GenCo is Rotti Largo (played by Paul Sorvino of Sopranos and Romeo + Juliet fame) who finds out that he is dying and is concerned about who he should leave his empire to. Rotti has three children- Luigi, a knife happy psychopath with OCD tendencies (played by Bill Moseley of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects fame), Pavi the vain, facially scarred, face skin wearing womanizer (played by Ogre of the band Skinny Puppy) and Amber Sweet the surgery addicted and drug abuser singer (played by Paris Hilton, House of Wax). Rotti is disgusted with all of his children and his gaze turns to Shiloh Wallace, daughter of his dead ex-lover Marni.

Shiloh Wallace (Alexa Vega of Spy Kids fame) is the protagonist of the movie, a girl who is effectively a prisoner in her home room due to an inherited blood disease that she must take medicine for. As we quickly learn she is prone to sneaking out with a mask over her face to protect her from the air and going to visit her mother's grave, which like many graves in Repo is indoors. It is here that she first meets the narrator of the movie, the Graverobber (Terrance Zdunich, co-creator of Repo) who explains most of what goes on in the movie. The Graverobber steals the drug Zydrate off corpses, a drug which eases the pain caused by surgery.

Repo is easy enough to follow with a basic plot full of gore and enuendo. As an opera there is next to no talking and the whole story is told in song form. Whilst many of the songs are forgettable a few do stand out, such as the catchy Zydrate Anatomy.

The cast all do well in their roles, Anthony Stewart Head is brilliant as the twisted, burdened Repo Man/Nathan Wallace, a man caught between his obssessive love for his daughter and his brutal job as the Repo Man. Bill Moseley is funny and fantastic as the psychotic Luigi Largo and Paris Hilton does a surprisingly good turn as Amber Sweet. I personally think her Raspberry nomination was based purely on assumption rather than the opinions of people who actually saw her perfomance. The girl can sing.

I feel that this movie would have done better as a musical with more talking between characters, which might have helped to develop them and the plot more so that there was less jumping about and confusion. It does what it can with its budget and the scenes and costumes are sufficiently gothic, creepy and in some cases futuristic but the low budget does show.

Repo seems unfinished in a way despite the clear-cut ending, which hints a sequel (one can hope) and it definitely could have done with more development. On the surface these characters all of a lot of potential but only the older ones- Rotti, Nathan and Blind Mag (played beautifully by Sarah Brightman, probably the only opera singer in the movie) seem to show any depth or development, as we learn about their history together.

The Largo siblings, the Graverobber and Shiloh Wallace all showed wasted potential, Shiloh never develops much throughout the film despite all that happens to her and all the revelations she learns and the Largo siblings are given little history, for example, what happened to Pavi's face and why is Luigi such a nut? What happened to their mother and who was she?

As a film there are obviously limitations that do not hinder books or series, and with the possibility of a sequel it is always plausible that these questions will be addressed. As a comic book series I think Repo would fare well and with the comic book style images at the start of the movie the potential is definitely there.


I would give this film a good strong 8/10. Breaking it down I would rate 7/10 for plot, 8/10 for originality (Repo Men is the rip-off), 9/10 for casting (I have a few issues with Alexa Vega to be honest), 7/10 for directing (little choppy in scenes and jumpy) and 8/10 for costumes and scenery.
Repo is a rare gem and it's not hard to see why it's become a cult favourite, the pity is that it was not given a bigger chance with cinema goers but sometimes cult films are better than the blockbusters.

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