a critiQal film review Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: In 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 Organ Repo Men.

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  • ...this goth/industrial musical is definitely an acquired taste.

Ever since “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV) ended, I’ve been trying to keep up with what the cast has been up to since. Alyson Hannigan (“Willow”), of course, has gone on to “How I Met Your Mother” (TV), while Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy”) has been stuck in horror movie suspension (her latest, Possession (2009), finally got a release date after 2 years of waiting).

And then I heard Anthony Stewart Head (“Giles”), was starring in a movie billed as a “modern-day rock opera”, and I was intrigued. Would his starring role in Repo! The Genetic Opera be worth checking out, or should he have stayed off the radar? I wasn’t sure about the film at first, so put it on hold – then promptly forgot about it as the summer movie season heated up. Now that summer is past, however, Repo! caught my eye, and I figured I’d give it a shot.

Anthony Stewart Head had already shown he had a surprisingly good singing voice in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV) episode “Once More With Feeling”, and in Repo!, that voice is put to the test. Portraying a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde character, Head belts his way through some powerful songs, including the hard rockin’ Legal Assassin, among many others, and does so with seeming ease. His two different personas – loving father and murderous Repo Man – are easily distinguishable throughout, and viewers will find themselves once again impressed by his performance.

Alexa Vega, who most will remember from the Spy Kids (2001) series, has done a little bit of growing up for her part in Repo!. Cursed with a blood disease, she’s a caged teen fighting to escape, while at the same time fearful of the dark, cruel world outside her safe haven. While also a decent singer, she isn’t ideal for some of the songs she’s tossed into, and her performance is hindered even further by one of the silliest scenes in the film (railing against her confinement, she starts yelling at daddy Anthony, then runs across her room to take center stage at a concert – complete with screaming fans – to continue the song). Despite that, it’s a surprisingly good performance from Alexa, overall.

Sarah Brightman is another highlight of Repo!. While her big operatic sequence does seem to pinpoint faults in her range (she has a hard time reaching some of the very high notes needed), the haunting refrain of her “Chase the Morning” will remain in the viewer’s mind long after the film ends.

The rest of the cast varied greatly. Terrance Zdunich does a good job of providing some background information on the situation in Repo! as the Graverobber, and even Paris Hilton actually isn’t bad as one of the crazy and wealthy offspring at GeneCo. But, there are a few miscasts. While Paul Sorvino is usually good in the mafia don-type role he takes on in Repo!, he’s ill-suited to the songs he performs – as is Bill Moseley in his psycho son role.

Since most of the entire script is done in song, Repo! is already an acquired taste. Toss in the dark goth surrealism of the world it presents the viewer with – complete with vicious organ-snatchers called Repo Men – and Repo! will shock those who see just “opera” in the title. The storyline does develop well through the film, however, giving the viewer a backbone to follow – although some meanderings during the film seem to sway far from the main point on occasion.

Repo!, like the mentally unstable inhabitants of it’s world, isn’t perfect by any means – but one has to give it props for it’s originality. Think a stage play set in an asylum and put on by it’s inhabitants, and you might have a glimpse of what to expect from Repo! – a film that is sure to be a “cult” icon in years to come.

Wild, violent and slightly insane, Repo! The Genetic Opera isn’t for everyone – in fact, some may find themselves just walking away – but there is enough going for the film that those with an adventurous spirit (and possibly a slightly eclectic taste in films) should find themselves decently entertained, despite the flaws.

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