You’ve never seen anything like it…
Love it or hate it, Repo! The Genetic Opera is guaranteed to be like nothing else you’ve ever seen. Set in 2056, Bousman’s (Saw II, III & IV) film depicts a frenzied, morally bereft future in which everything is for sale. Mega corporation GeneCo offers loans for organ transplants, but also reserve the right to take back your new body parts if you fail to pay up. This gory task falls to the Repo Man, who makes his living by slicing, dicing and collecting bloody debts with gusto. Into this world stumbles young Shilo (Vega), desperately searching for a cure for her debilitating blood disease. But when the head of GeneCo, Rotti Largo (Sorvino), offers to give her all the answers, Shilo realises that her own family history might be the very key to her survival.
Oh yes; and it’s a musical. With songs, and everything.
The idea is solid and the post-apocalyptic setting – visually reminiscent of everything from Bladerunner to Minority Report – is effectively realised. It looks like a graphic novel sprung to life, and its dark, moody tones are the perfect background to the macabre story. It is supremely gory, and the bright red blood splatters evocatively across the bleak background.
The performances are generally good; Vega is fabulous as the bewildered Shilo, and her vocal talents are also well up to scratch. Anthony Head is clearly having a blast as Shilo’s father Nathan – who hides a dark secret – and he too has a decent voice, while Sarah Brightman’s turn as opera singer Blind Mag is also a lot of fun. Less successful is Sorvino; not only can he barely hold a note, but he often looks faintly embarrassed by his role. And the less said about Paris Hilton’s turn as a fame-obsessed, surgery-addicted socialite the better.
Where the film really loses points, however, is in the songs. The success of any musical depends on the strengths of the numbers – and this is even more important when attempting to meld two such opposing genres. Some of Repo!’s songs are terrific, mainly when Shilo is involved – her teenage angst spills out in one particularly memorable rock number – but some of them are truly terrible, stretching the boundaries of plot exposition to their absolute limit.
That said, if you can get past the wacky premise and original set-up it is a rollicking good ride. It’s certainly not going to win any awards – well, apart from Paris Hilton’s recent Razzie – and it’s not high art, but it’s not intended as such. Essentially, it’s a brave, bold and brash piece of film-making that deserves to find a cult home on DVD. 3 stars
Director Bousman appears on both commentaries; on the first he is joined by several of his cast and the second co-creators Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich and music producer Jospeh Bishara. This is perhaps the better one, as it goes deep into the ideas behind and making of such an interesting project. (The Blu-ray release also includes selected scenes commentary with Bousman and Paris Hilton).
Three lightweight featurettes delve further into Hilton’s character of Amber Sweet and the Repo Man himself, and there are also deleted scenes and Video Sing-Along on four songs. 4 stars
Stars Anthony Stewart Head, Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino, Paris Hilton
Director Darren Lynn Bousman
Running Time 1hr 34 mins
Distributor Lions Gate
Format DVD (£15.99), Blu-Ray (£22.99)
Released March 9