Posted by: da_nibbler | February 3, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera Review 1

This fantasy horror musical extravaganza has cult classic written all over it.

The disturbing production design is brilliant as is the make-up and prosthetics. The interesting story idea, creepy setting and good actors make this fun to watch. The comic strips interspersed with the live action giving us background information on some of the characters are refreshingly different and yet work wonderfully and don’t seem out of place in this flashy and colorful opera.

And an opera it is indeed. The word musical wouldn’t do this justice. The decadence reflects the grand operas of old. While the film transports us into the future it feels more like a jump backwards in time. Everything is over stylized, colorful and yet gritty. The atmospheric cinematography kept me enthralled throughout the film. I felt like being engulfed in an interactive art exhibition. Adding to that are the rocky tunes, that up the cool factor tremendously. Unfortunately most of the singing leaves much to be desired.

So what is this film about?

The setting is the “not-too-distant future” where an “epidemic of organ failures” causes the death of millions. Anarchy and chaos rule until GeneCo offers “payment plans that cheat death”. Their “organ financing” evolves into “surgery as a fashion statement”. Only problem is, if you can’t keep up with your organ payments the Repoman will come and get you. Thanks to a newly passed law he will repossess the implanted organs legally. Just to make this clear, he kills the people to repossess those organs.

In this setting we are introduced to two families, one a little more disfunctional than the other. GeneCo is owned by the world’s most powerful family, Rotti Largo and his kids Luigi, Pavi and Amber Sweet. While on the other hand we have Repoman Nathan Wallace, who’s wife died of the organ disease while pregnant with their child, Shilo. Nathan managed to save Shilo, but she is sick and we follow her searching for the cure as her dad is trying to keep her save by locking her away for life.

The film depicts how they and their history is all connected and their actions and machinations lead to a showdown at the Genetic Opera at the end of the film.

While the visuals immediately got me interested and excited for this project there is a lot more to it than flashy costumes, rocky tunes and over the top characters. The film is an interesting spin on our society’s fascination with beauty and plastic surgery. As disturbing and bizarre Repo! The Genetic Opera is it might not be as fantastical and far-fetched as some people would see it. We already have “surgery as a fashion statement” with high school girls wanting nothing more than a top surgery for their graduation etc.

Surprisingly a film with depth, that gives you stuff to talk about after you’ve witnessed the extravagant opera laid out in front of you. I think I need to get the soundtrack. Some of those songs were amazing and I can’t get them out of my head.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend it to anyone with a bit of a whacky taste in films, but I still have a couple of gripes with it…

For one the actors playing the two Largo sons were painful to watch. Maybe their characters were too over the top for me and their singing was too cringe-worthy. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t like any of the scenes they were in.

But my biggest problem with the film is how the third act was handled. The major climax happening at the Genetic Opera is Shilo finding out that her dad is a Repoman, that he is responsible for her mother’s death etc. Basically everything we were told throughout the film in those cool comic strips. Unfortunately it is quite anti climactic because we, as the viewer, already know all this stuff so the reveal is no reveal for us and is quite disappointing. In my opinion it would have had a bigger impact if the audience had been oblivious to those facts and got smacked in the head by them just as the main character Shilo was. That would have made the film a lot more interesting and given it the potential to really go out with a bang. Considering that wasted opportunity the ending was quite a disappointment for me and I had to remind myself that everything leading up to it was very good.

A big surprise was Paris Hilton in this film. I didn’t know she was in it and was only reminded of her when I saw a scene with the character of Amber Sweet being all sexed up and slutty. That is the Paris Hilton of its time, is what I thought to myself and checked for the actress’s name. Was I shocked when I found out that none other than the actual Paris Hilton had played the character of Amber Sweets. I didn’t even recognize her until much later in the film. I have to admit she did quite a good job. She was one of the few that stuck out as positive. The real highlights were Sarah Brightman, Anthony Steward Head, Paul Sorvino and most importantly Alexa Vega, playing lead Shilo Wallace. Although the stand out character for me was the narrator (of sorts), the graverobber played by Terrance Zdunich. His makeup, his voice, his acting – just made the whole film.

If you like quirky films with bizarre characters, an interesting story with a unique approach, stunning visuals, an atmospheric setting and don’t mind singing or some really rocky riffs, then Repo! The Genetic Opera is for you. The general mainstream audience will probably not appreciate it. Repo! is definitely an eclectic taste.

Also read Karastra’s Review of Repo! The Genetic Opera.

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