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In the year 2056 - the not so distant future - an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family's mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera. Written by
A cult wannabe with a dash of Blade Runner and a slash of Saw
Darren Lynn Bousman has cojones. Big brass ones, it would appear, after viewing his twisted eclectic musical known as Repo! The Genetic Opera, which was given its world premier at Montreal's Fantasia film festival months in advance of its November release date.
The Director of Saw II, III and IV is hardly a person you'd associate with a rock opera, and when you factor in a cast that includes such artistic polar opposites as Sarah Brightman and Paris Hilton, you could be forgiven for feeling that the stink-o-meter would be going off the chart. And yet, it doesn't.
Set against a futuristic backdrop where an epidemic of organ failures is plaguing humanity, people turn to the unscrupulous Geneco Corporation to purchase replacements for their failing vitals. Not everybody makes good on their payments, however, which is where Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) goes into action as one of Geneco's "repo men", brutally reclaiming defaulters organs at scalpel-point.
The movie has a visual style that both works to its benefit and runs against the grain of conventional movie telling (comic strip look, richly colored and stylized sets, heavily filtered camera shots) and much of the music is surprisingly good. Even those sung by Hilton, who blends surprisingly well into the mix as Amber, the vain, plastic-surgery obsessed daughter of Geneco's president (Paul Sorvino). While Sarah Brightman's career as a pop-opera singer makes her, on paper at least, the best casting choice, it's Head who's really surprising. Sure he an act, but in a movie with no spoken dialog he not only shows he can sing, but is actually able to change his vocal style from controlled, when in character as Wallace, to raunchy when he dons his Repo Man persona.
Among the movie's flaws is the performance of Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects) as Luigi Largo, the scheming son of Geneco's president, whose singing talent can charitably be described as "lacking". Then again, considering the nature of the story, its roles, and ambitious scope, you'd have to expect that Bousman was going to break a few eggs en route to making his omelet.
The folks who run the hype machines at Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures are spinning this as another cult classic along the lines of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise. That's a bit much. Musical cult classics aren't instantly created, they assume that mantle as a result of fan approval, and the cultivation of a following something not easily done given the demise of repertory cinemas and weekly midnight screenings. Right now such corporate accolades are nothing more than hyperbole. Even though a lot of the prerequisites are in place, only time will tell if Repo will allow Bousman to reserve a permanent spot shilling to character-dressed fans on the convention circuit.
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