Wednesday, November 11, 2009



REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA is one of those movies that has been lurking about on the outskirts of pop culture and never quite stepped up as “must-see” viewing. If we were still in a “video store” society, this might be the movie that you choose because your original choice is out for the night. REPO is a flashy, well-concocted musical diversion. It is fun to watch, fun to listen to, but empty and not particularly memorable.

REPO is a musical on the disturbing tip. It is trying to pluck that same nerve that THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW plucked back in the ‘70s. However, The RHPS had things going for it that this film does not. The most glaring example is that RHPS was original. It wasn’t biting any other film or following in the footsteps of a predecessor. Without Baz Luhrmann’s previous films to draw on, REPO would be vacant. Paul Sorvino’s presence is a complete tribute to Luhrmann’s heavy artillery remix of ROMEO AND JULIET. But the re-writing and sampling doesn’t end there. MOULIN ROUGE has been bled dry in order to get REPO up and moving. In fact, the grand stage show at the end of REPO is damn near Lego-interchangeable with ROUGE.

REPO is a soap opera about Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) who owns the genetics business GeneCO. He sells organs for profit. When people can’t pay their bills, he sends in the Repo Man (Anthony Head) who slashes into the customer and takes the organs back to Rotti. One cannot escape the Monty Python vibe here, even though the splatter and mood are meant to be gloomy and not fishing for laughs. The story is, in essence, about these two men, their decisions over a 17 year period, and all of the lives that they have affected in that time.

There is a mushroom cloud of ruined/corrupted lives in this film, and REPO focuses on its center. To start with, Rotti has cancer and has to leave his mercenary GeneCo to someone when he dies. He has three full-grown kids in the running who are all horrible human beings.

Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), Luigi Largo ( Bill Mosely) and Pavi Largo ( Nivek Ogre from SKINNY PUPPY) are all vamped up and atrocious. Amber is addicted to plastic surgery to the point that her face is falling off, murderous Luigi is in need of anger management, and Pavi’s face is literally tacked on and interchangeable with other faces depending on his mood.

There is also a creepy subplot about the rampant abuse of a drug named Zydrate. This drug is sucked (via obnoxious sized hypodermic needle) out of the nostrils of the dead by the Graverobber (Terrence Zdunich). The Graverobber also functions as the limited-perspective narrator of the story.

At the heart of this musical is a tragedy and Rotti’s unhinged solution to it all. While the film’s plot is unnecessarily complicated and requires graphic novel presentations to get the story across, it is really rather simple. Rotti wants to leave his empire to someone other than his disgusting offspring. There is a lot of overwrought backstory that determines who this inheritor should be. But to give details here would be to give a lot of spoilers, and they are not all that interesting anyway.

On the up side, a lot of splatter (people get hacked to bits in this film) and some extremely strong singing voices round this film out. REPO succeeds in that it really feels like a film that should be viewed in a scummy theater downtown at midnight. It ends with enough questions festering for a sequel. And though soaked in blood and strange surgeries, REPO is surprisingly entertaining and light. There are lessons embedded into the plot in order to give the story some substance, but they seem too preachy. And in the end, REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA is no more than a diversion. It isn’t a film to be taken seriously or to be pored over. There really isn’t very much going on here, but it sure is pretty to look at and listen to.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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