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Review – Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

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The Genetic opera - original photo by Victor de la Fuente

Repo: The Genetic opera – original photo by Victor de la Fuente

It’s the new year and we’re going through some old stuff, weeding out articles that didn’t really go anywhere or which are no longer relevant. This review, however, still seems pretty fresh. First published on 11/27/2008, we thought we’d re-post it with a few stylistic updates.

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writers: Darren Smith (screenplay), Terrance Zdunich (screenplay)
Stars: Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head and Alexa Vega
Full Cast and Crew at IMDb.com

Repo! The Genetic Opera draws on films like Blade Runner, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise but carves out – no pun intended – its own unique, freakish landscape.

Basically we have a creepy, ethically infected future where a corporate giant, GenCo, does organ transplants for a price. Customers unable to pay the full markup go on an installment plan. And if they miss a payment, enter the Repo Man–a legal assassin who repossesses unpaid organs.The Repo Man isn’t a nice guy. He doesn’t even use anesthetic. He rips out guts in public or private.

But the film isn’t quite that simple. As dark, bloody and grotesque as it is, Repo! touches on several intelligent themes that demand attention in the 21st century.

The top Repo Man, expertly played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anthony Stewart Head, is sort of a Jekyll and Hyde character. To his sheltered 17 year old daughter, Shilo, he’s a kind dad and family doctor. But donning his Repo headgear, he secretly transforms into a Nazi-like maniac.

To make matters worse, Shilo gets suspicious. She begins to see more to life than what dad tells her. But as a seemingly respectable doctor, the Repo Dad medicates her well and tells her she’s just “imagining things.”

The plot then gets increasingly complicated and cartoon panels flesh out the main characters to help keep things clear.

Repo Promoting in downtown Berkeley by shellEProductions

Repo Promoting in downtown Berkeley by shellEProductions

Building steadily to the grand finale of the Genetic Opera, here operagoers watch on-stage gore as Shilo chooses between killing her dad – she now knows everything – or the madman behind GeneCo, Rotti Largo, who first sent the Repo Man down the path of destruction.

Meanwhile, the film audience watches the watchers and the operatic gore (some of the Toronto audience got up and danced), which gives this movie a kind of triangular feel, a point that I imagine postmodern intellectuals could belabor for hours.

Musically, the film is fabulous. The score swings from Pavarotti-like arias to strains reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar, driven by throbbing Alice In Chains style guitars. Better yet, the lyrics are well enunciated, so one doesn’t have to try to guess what’s happening.

Chances are you’ll either despise or enjoy this film. Whatever the case may be, Repo! is an important social commentary just as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was once deemed edgy and monstrous but also respected by mature moviegoers.

In short, Repo! is a cult classic with something to say.

–MC

Cast:

Condensed from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repo!_The_Genetic_Opera

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