Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) Review: Gory Song
“Assassin. Murderer. Monster.”
Synopsis: A worldwide epidemic encourages a biotech company to launch an organ-financing program similar in nature to a standard car loan. The repossession clause is a killer, however.
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If you enjoy both Sin City and musicals, there’s a good chance you’ll like Repo! The Genetic Opera.
This is another movie that won’t be for everyone, and may only work well for a niche audience. Repo is highly stylized, conducted entirely through song, and uncomfortably gross. It’s also darkly funny, clever, and contains no small amount of beauty.
At its heart, Repo is a coming-of-age story set in a dystopian future. Unfortunately, Shilo (Alexa PenaVega) is the least interesting character in the movie, especially when held up alongside her tortured father Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head), blackmailed diva Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), or Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) and his three damaged children. But there’s enough going on in this bizarre commentary on human nature that Shilo is rarely left to carry the weight alone. In the end, her innocence and determination is striking, but not quite uplifting… since her story is shaky enough that it’s hard to get a clear picture of what comes next for her for her.
The lush visuals of Repo are a beautiful mix of Bladerunner and Moulin Rouge, but occasionally felt too over-the-top for me. The comic book credits and interjections are excellent ways to tell the story, though. And as much as I like musicals, here I often felt a bit let down – most of the songs feel “sung to be sung” as opposed to clear, catchy musical motifs that the audience could recognize and appreciate. Fortunately, the vocals usually hold up well and often surpass the music (Anthony Stewart Head and Sarah Brightman are particularly noteworthy – though Sarah Brightman is an actual opera singer, so that’s to be expected). Paris Hilton also does a surprisingly good job with her vocals, and indeed her part as a whole.
Despite the shaky bits, there’s a lot to like in Repo. The setting is both clever and deeply disturbing, and the attention to detail when it comes to props and sets was excellent. I also didn’t realize how much my life needed Anthony Stewart Head growling and twirling in a latex coat while brandishing a scalpel. His performance is far and away the best thing about the movie, though Sarah Brightman’s creepy stare gives him a run for his money once or twice. For the musical freaks, and the sci-fi/comic book nerds, this is a disturbing but worthwhile watch. Others may have difficulty getting into its over-the-top world and style, though – so proceed with caution.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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