Repo! The Genetic Opera

cast: Alex Vega, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head, Sarah Brightman, and Paris Hilton

director: Darren Lynn Bousman

94 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon

The plot: it is the year 2056 and an epidemic of organ failures has blighted the planet. GeneCo, a biotech company specialising in credit-financed organ transplants, emerges to dominate the world of commerce. Those who miss their payments are hunted by the Repo Men, and have their organs forcibly removed, and most of the population is addicted to a painkiller sourced from dead bodies. Oh, and there’s a sexy young pseudo-Goth girl with a rare disease kept hostage by her father, and Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), the ruthless head of GeneCo is linked to these two unfortunates by a deep familial secret…

Director Darren Lyn Bousman was involved in the development of the ludicrous Saw franchise and gave us a set of increasingly silly B-movies that can be guiltily enjoyed as modern-day counterparts to the old Dr Phibes films. Now he’s responsible for this garish comic book-horror-fantasy-medical-musical that tries its best to be something different but somehow feels very familiar, and very silly.

Repo: The Genetic Opera! comes on like a demented Meatloaf video, but with the addition of some fetish imagery and a lot of nasty gore. Instead of being genuinely subversive – as the producers obviously think it is – the film is simply a parade of faux Goth trappings set to some deeply unmemorable songs. The production design is nice but it looks like a stage show. The acting varies from flat to average – even the usually reliable Sorvino looks a bit embarrassed to be involved in all this. The plot (as sketched above) lumbers along like a wounded buffalo.

The comic-book montage at the beginning of the film is nicely done, and serves to illustrate the history of the situation, and occasional character back stories are presented in the same way. Unfortunately, soon after this the whole thing degenerates into a teenage Goth’s masturbatory fantasy, with pale, black-haired women in fetish outfits (yes, even the dying girl with the rare disease is sexy) and rubbery disembowelments showering everything in blood.

There are one or two nice moments along the way, which hint that the film could have been a lot more interesting: Paris Hilton’s face falls off, and Sarah Brightman tears out her eyes prior to being impaled on an iron fence. Brightman is actually the only member of the cast who can sing, and this becomes very apparent during her musical numbers. The absurd Hilton is there merely for novelty value (and presumably to add column-inches in the press).

With a quirkier director at the helm, some good songs and a better plot, this could have in fact been an interesting, if overblown, rock opera, but the film is crippled by the fact that it lacks integrity and doesn’t seem to know what tone it’s aiming for. It feels like its trying way too hard to be a cult film, and we all know that cult films aren’t made that way – they just happen.