CAPSULE: This is a Grand Guignol science fiction rock opera starring Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, and Anthony Head. Rotti Largo, the man who supplies the world with synthetic transplant organs, became the most powerful man in the world during a strange epidemic. As he nears death there is a struggle for who will inherit his empire after he dies. The plot is minimal and for a rock opera, there is too little real melody. Visually the film is a little nauseating but otherwise very inventive. Darren Lynn Bousman, director of three sequels to SAW, helms this film with what I would guess is the same sensitivity. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
The time is somewhere around the middle years of the 21st Century. The world has been ravaged by a strange plague that attacks by destroying internal organs. There are not enough natural organs to go around for all the transplants that are needed. But a company named GeneCo has fulfilled the demand. They have perfected artificial organs that function like the real thing. That is the good news. The bad news is that like any medical technology these days, the artificial organs are very expensive. When it is a question of living or dying, many are willing to pay the price and GeneCo offers easy credit. GeneCo has become the wealthiest company in the world. But large numbers of organ recipients are deeply in debt to GeneCo. When they cannot pay GeneCo sends the Repo Man to legally repossess the organs from their living bodies and leave them bleeding and dying.
The owner of GeneCo is the ruthless medical industrialist Rotti Largo (played by Paul Sorvino). He has three has three children vying to be the most cold-blooded to prove they are worthy to run the empire. Meanwhile we meet Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega) is a teenager with blood disease that keeps her at home. She is discovering that her dead mother has a history with Rotto Largo. And Nathan, her father ("Buffy"'s Anthony Head), may also have had other involvements with the most powerful man in the world. This is all told in a world in which the smart set lives ignoring the gruesome violence in their society that they pass every day. By the time the story is over everybody seems to be awash in the spilt blood. The plot does have some interesting concepts behind it somewhere deep in the bloody organs.
The color palette is usually very controlled with strong colors suited to the mood of the scene. That also enhances the graphic novel feel of the film. The film uses the gimmick of having all the expository lumps presented as comic book panels.
Reader Susan de Guardiola, who recommended the film to me, said that she could not get the music out of her head. The reason she is still humming the music is what is most wrong with the movie. It may be a question of musical taste, but the music is all short repetitive note combinations without more than a rudimentary melody. You can find some of that style in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, but that also has longer and more engaging melodies such as "I Don't Know How To Love Him". In REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA someone will be saying things in a five-note theme repeated three times, then will get a response to the same five-note theme. Pretty soon you cannot get that five-note theme out of your head. The Top-40 stations work by the same principle of repetitions. But there are no longer engaging melodies. Much of the music is not so much sung as yelled to the sound of a heavy beat. That makes the music all the less appreciated when it overstays its welcome and becomes an earworm.
Along for the ride in lesser roles are Sarah Brightman and Paris Hilton. The screenplay is by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich based on their own stage play. (Smith has a role as a bandleader and Zdunich plays the film's host and the grave robber.) There are numerous borrowings (or perhaps homages) to other musicals. However, the screenplay is probably more timely today than when it was first produced on the stage with themes of credit problems and corporate malfeasance, both on people's minds right now.
It is hard to get excited about songs of ecstasy over getting kidney transplants or people who rip out their own eyes. I rate REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0963194/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/repo_the_genetic_opera/
Susan de Guardiola's extensive blog on the film: http://www.rixosous.com/2009/02/repo-the-genetic-opera.html
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper