Making a movie like “Repo! The Genetic Opera” is like the electric company sending you a Christmas card with a bill inside. The material is like the card, a poorly executed attempt at showing sincerity and thought for its audience. The film’s purpose is like the bill, whose sender insults your intelligence by hiding it in something that’s pretty much worthless – the whole thing is a cheap ruse that’s designed to sugarcoat the fact that it just wants your money. The sad part is that in real life, it gets it in advance.
The film is about two things – gore and singing. The funny thing, though, is that it’s harder to listen to than it is to watch. The songs are expository and functional, with so much urgency that they become more important than the story itself. Since the film begins at a point where most of the motives and relationships have already been set up, a great deal of the songs merely explain events from the past. All they do is make a stage for the climax, which is one of those ludicrous scenes where everybody’s paths coincide at the most appropriate time. Then they sing some more.
The only character who doesn’t know about the world she lives in happens to be our heroine, Shilo (Alexa Vega). Her father, Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head), hides her in the solitude of her room, where he repeatedly stops by to give her medicine for a life-threatening disease. There’s more to him than meets the eye, though: He’s also got a job as a Repo Man, which requires him to track people down, relieve them of various body parts and give them to a company named GeneCo.
Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), the mob boss who runs GeneCo, makes a fortune selling vital organs at a time when surgery is a sacrament. Anybody who can’t pay on time is killed when a Repo Man calls in the debt, a process which isn’t as show-stopping as it sounds.
Meanwhile, Rotti’s maniacal children fight over who gets the family business when he dies. It’s kind of a Catch-22 for poor Rotti, who has to choose between a son with a terribly botched facelift (Nivek Ogre), another whose greed is worth more than his life (Bill Moseley) and an insatiable daughter (Paris Hilton) who seldom goes anywhere without her muscle-bound acolytes.
Other characters turn up throughout the film, but never mind – you’d need a notebook to keep track of all the things about this movie that fail. The quick cutting makes focusing on the material close to impossible, like reading on a bumper car. That’s getting kind of technical, but if you wind up watching this movie and feel the meat of your eyeballs throbbing, you’ll know why.
The only thing “Repo!” ever gets right are the comic-book asides that sidestep the awfulness of all that horrible singing, which even the characters think is kind of extreme. When Shilo sings for her father during one of their little “talks,” she pushes him over the edge: “Please!” he sings. “Shut up!”
While “Repo: The Genetic Opera” is a bit a round the edges and doesn’t have the things most solid rock operas have- a decent soundtrack being the most obvious, there’s something about it that is intriguing and enjoyable. The story and world is unlike anything ever seen in a rock opera before, something along the lines of Sin City and Sweeney Todd, that never takes itself too seriously. Because of this, you’ll find yourself able to enjoy it and not know the real reasons why.
Yes, it’s corny and whimsical at times, but guess what?
Who cares. This isn’t “There Will Be Blood” or “The Departed.” Anyone looking for real cinema should look somewhere else. Anyone looking for a few laughs and some different however should look no further.
The thing that keeps the whole thing together though is the acting of Head and Sorvino and the ever-annoying, but on-purpose this time performance of Hilton. When you throw all of these things together, you get something that is a worthwhile watch with friends, but not much else.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” it is not, but it’s still fun in its own way.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.