Friday, 1 May 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Title: Repo! The Genetic Opera
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Released: 2008
Staring: Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Stewart Head, Sarah Brightman, Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, Nivek Ogre, Terrance Zdunich
Rating: 3.5 / 5

Plot: In the year 2056 an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savoir 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 this world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, Shilo (Vega) a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family's mysterious history.

Review: So with us starting a new month, which also marks the start of “Ozploitation Month” here on the blog, I thought that I would allow myself one film outside of the months genre, before I dive headfirst into a month of Aussie themed insanity, for which I’ve already lined up a whole bunch of cult, weird and pretty random movies for the month, but first I wanted to look at this film, which I was going into pretty much expecting to hate every minute while looking forward to taking it behind the critical bike sheds and giving a good kicking, the kind best reserved for any film with “Noel Clarke” in it's cast and whose character Mickey, was one of the main failing of the new Doctor Who in, while he is currently set to bother movie fans when he appears in “Doghouse” which is set for release later this year and bears more than a slight similarity to the “Masters of Horror” episode “The Screw fly solution”. Strangely enough though I actually enjoyed this film a lot, even though it was a film that had a lot stacked against it, seeing how it has Paris Hilton in it, let alone the fact that what could have very easily been filmed in a very traditional style, is instead shot by Bousman as a rock opera, which somehow he manages to pull off.
Set in a world non to dissimilar to that of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” (1985) the setting for the film like the characters back stories is explained with the extensive use of Comic Panel art, drawn by Terrance Zdunich (who is also involved in numerous other aspects of the films, having apparently not satisfied with just playing the drug dealer “Graverobber” is also on producing duties, aswekk as co writing the film and soundtrack with Darren Smith…phew!) as we are shown how the world became it’s current dystopian state, as human flesh is bought and sold like a commodity, while organs are reprocessed from their owners, who have failed to keep up with their payments. It is certinally an effective style that works well here, helping to keep the action flowing and stopping the story from becoming overly confusing which it could easily have done with the extensive catalogue of colourful characters which inhabit this world that Zdunich and Smith have created as a warped stage for each of their creations, to be showcased, from the sheltered Shilo and her over protective father Nathan (Head), who is living a double life as one of the Repo men to the bickering Largo siblings, eager to claim GeneCo. for themselves, Repo certainly is a film best remembered for it’s characters, who provide the substance of the film, which could have easily gone the other way, giving us a film which is all style and no substance, which is how many detractors felt about “Southland Tales” (2006), Richard Kelly’s follow up to his breakthrough hit “Donnie Darko” (2001) and it’s “Southland Tales” which I feel that this film bares the closest resemblance to, especially with the artistic freedom that Bouseman has chosen to use when it came to shooting the film. Bouseman himself is a really surprising choice as director, seeing how he is best known for directing Saw 2, 3 & 4, all of which lacked the qualities which made the original film so special, but Repo is a vast departure from that less subtle world, even though this new world is one which contains a slight dash of Saw’s gore and violence, as we watch repo men tearing various organs from the bodies, as they perform gooey backstreet surgery, which like helps make this opera, like the DVD case states nothing like “Your parents opera”, which again like the promise of a rock opera, could have turned out horribly, yet somehow these sporadic scenes of gore throughout only add to the storyline, including one memorable and quite humorous scene, involving Shilo’s father reclaiming a spine from a man who hasn’t kept up with his payments, while on the phone to her, as he tries to cover up what he is currently doing, while at the same time she is desperately trying to cover for the fact she has snuck out of the house again.

Seeing how this is an opera I should also comment on the vocal performances, which vary greatly, much like the song range as despite being an opera, it is not an opera in the traditional sense and not only because of the setting or the gore, but rather the song range, which goes from traditional opera style pieces such as Blind Mag’s (Brightman) “Chromaggia” at the climax, a song which makes full use of Brightman’s ability, as she carries over the same vocal range which she brought as Christine in “Phantom of the Opera” (a role which was specifically written for her.) to the “Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) esq “Zydrate Anatomy” in which Graverobber proceeds to explain about the addictive painkiller Zydrate, which head of GeneCo. Rotti’s surgery addicted daughter Amber (Hilton) is also hooked on. Sadly as is the case with all musicals there are several songs which don’t work such as the Punk rock “Seventeen” which not only features a cameo by Joan Jett, but also has Shilo sounding more like a spoilt brat stomping her feet, than I’m sure it was originally intended. It’s also worth noting that as fantastic as he as Rotti’s psychotic son Luigi, Bill Moseley is no singer and it’s quite painfully clear here whenever he attempts this, still as I already stated he plays the character so well, even if it is a slightly more upper class psycho, than the usual red neck kind he tends to favor playing. Still the rest of the cast manage to hold the singing parts together well enough for the format to still work, especially Zdunich whose performance as graverobber easily were some of my favourite parts.
Thankfully Repo, knows how a musical should work, which is with the songs being used to further the story, rather than bring it to a halt which is the problem that I found with Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” (2007) which would frequently for me come crashing to a halt, as the cast churned out another dreary musical number, which thankfully I didn’t find with Repo, even with the less than fantastic songs, of which it does as I stated earlier feature a few.

Rumoured to be the first of a trilogy, with a Prequel “Repo!: The Beginning” planned to be the next part to follow, but Repo stands well on it’s own and my only fear at hearing such news, is that any additional sequels / prequels would only take away from the mythos, in a similar way that numerous sequels have done to the “Saw” franchise, to the point were it has now fallen into the same rhythm of numerous other long running horror series, so it is now more about the death scenes, than the actual plotline. Still in the meantime if you’re looking for an opera with a difference, or if you liked the pop cultured tainted flamboyant extravagance of “Moulin Rouge” (2001) then this is certainly the film for you and it makes me wonder how the original stage version looked and whether having the larger canvas which film provides, added or took away from what at the soul from what is defiantly an highly original piece of work, which is worth a rental at least.

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