Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Last year, I started seeing and hearing about some weird movie called Repo! The Genetic Opera. I knew that it was going to be directed by Darren Lyunn Bousman, of Saw infamy, and that it had a really interesting cast including Anthony Stewart Head (Giles, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Sarah Brightman(!). The movie got delayed for a while, but then got a limited release in about 10 theaters before hitting video. I was disappointed, since it sounded interesting, and since Lionsgate is starting to get a reputation for This Sort of Thing. I rented Repo! a few weeks ago, and the reasons for the limited release were very, very clear: this is one musical that the curtain should have stayed down on.
Repo! takes place in the future, in your cookie-cutter post-apocalyptic world, with the same Road Warrior/Blade Runner aesthetic that you've come to expect from this type of movie. Sickness is rampant, and replacement organs have become commonplace. So commonplace, that they are treated like houses or cars, or other expensive commodities: miss a payment, and the Repo Man comes calling to take the merchandise back. There is a company run by dying magnate Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), and his useless children (Bill Moseley, Paris Hilton, and Nivek Ogre). There is Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), the singer whose eyes Largo replaced, and who unbeknownst to her is due for repossession. There is Nathan Wallace (Anthony Stewart Head), the reluctant Repo Man; and his sick, rebellious daughter Shilo (Alexa Vega). And you know, there's a lot of blood, gore, and singing.
If it seems like I'm not doing a very good job recalling the plot, the problem is that there wasn't much plot to recall. There's something about Rotti dying, and trying in vain to pick an heir to his company. There's something about Nathan getting fed up with having to hide his gruesome profession from his daughter, and her feeling locked in by her father due to her health. Situations change for some characters, but nobody who survives to the end of the film grows or really learns anything. I didn't care about a single character. That is bad, bad script design. Strike One.
There are some puzzling choices made in this movie. For a musical (and one with no spoken dialogue that I can remember), there are an awful lot of non/poor singers in the film. Sarah Brightman is an opera singer, and acquits herself nicely as expected. Repo! writer/composer Terrance Zudnich does an ok job, and Anthony Stewart Head does ok despite the fact that he is forced to do an American accent. That aside, he shows great range and versatility with some gutteral, quasi-death-metal deliveries. But those of us who have heard what an incredible singer he is know that the material is holding him back. Ogre does an ok job, but Sorvino, Hilton, Moseley, and Vega should have restraining orders issued against them from the microphones of the world. Strike Two.
But for all the bad/mediocre performances, the best actor/singers in the world couldn't have saved this movie from its biggest enemy: its insufferably boring music and story. Out of 58 songs, I would deem ONE of them "ok" at best. There are no strong hooks or memorable melodies. And this is a MUSICAL. WITH HARDLY ANY TALKING. Strike Three. You're out, Repo.
A movie as weird and graphic as this should never be boring, but I was suffering for virtually every minute of its hour and a half running time. I give Repo! a -18 out of 22 on the 22 scale. I would have given it a lower score, but an actor as compelling as Tony Head will always bring something to the table, even in a movie as abysmally incompetent as this one.
-Your Racist Friend


Dr. Worm said...

Not that I'd ever see this movie anyway (thanks to my gore aversion), but the premise actually does sound mildly interesting. Though I can certainly grant that with something as weird as a horror/musical, if it's not good, it's terrible.

What's really confusing is the thought process that got Paris Hilton singing on film. Who thought: "You know what this needs? Paris Hilton's famously dulcet voice." And what about Paris? It's not like she's short on money. Or does she enjoy making fun of herself now, too?

Wicked Little Critta said...

Thanks for the fit of laughter, DW.

I'll agree, it does sound quite interesting to me, and I'm dumbfounded that such a freaky and unusual premise ended up boring. Doesn't seem possible.

The only comparable movie that comes to mind (strange, disturbing musical) that I've seen is Dancer in the Dark starring Bjork. Have you seen this, and if so, does it even come close to comparing?

Also, YRF, do you think that Repo! will reach it's goal in becoming a cult classic?

Mike said...

It's an interesting idea, sure. The problem is, there's no room to explore that premise in the story, not the way it could outside of a musical.

Apparently, Darren Lynn Bousman REFUSED to see Paris Hilton, but she wormed her way into an audition somehow. She's a HORRIBLE singer. One would think that Paris Hilton in your film = The instant death of credibility. He might have been grasping for names.

Dancer in the Dark is a FAR superior film to Repo!. The songs are better too, but the intense story is what grabs me about the former.

I hope not. It has a disproportionately high rating on IMDB, but the only things it has going for it are violence and weirdness. It has none of the quality that mark films like The Warriors, The Crow, or Battle Royale.

Eve said...

Wow, I really had a hard time watching this movie. I was pretty much there for Tony Head, and he was shortshifted. I'm a bit sad to learn that he can't do a credible American accent, but why make him try?

I did like the aesthetic of the movie, things like Sarah Brightman's prosthetic eyes, and the gothy costumes and feel. It could have been really good, but it just wasn't.

Wicked Little Critta said...

Sarah Brightman with prosthetic eyes actually sounds cool. I'd like to see and hear that.