By: Marco Mannone
Go see Repo! The Genetic Opera with your date/significant other. Only good can come from it; you will either both bond over your love for it, your hate for it, or one of you will love it while the other hates it and this will pretty much conclude that you aren’t meant to be together.
Directed by Saw alumni Darren Lynn Bousman and written by the creators of the musical in which the film is based, Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich, Repo! The Genetic Opera functions as a litmus of taste, perversion, humor and, yes, even love. Some critics are eager to brand a large “W.” onto this movie season as a symbol of polarity. It’s true. We live in polarizing times, and RTGO is nothing but a polarizing movie — dare I say the polarizing movie of 2008.
Set in a dark, trashy future (as if there were any other kind), the story revolves around 17-year-old Shilo Wallace (a tour-de-force Alexa Vega) who is apparently dying from a rare blood disease while the world outside her lonely window is suffering from an organ-failing epidemic. Her father Nathan (Anthony Head, a great surprise) is a doctor driven mad to find a cure while everyone else is all-too-happy to get organ transplants on credit through GeneCo, a biotech corporation headed by Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino, the Fourth Tenor and ultimate hangdog boss). Largo has cut out quite the business for himself (pun intended) because the supply and demand go hand-in-hand with the dying population’s desire for life which, at this point in history, has morphed into a sickening desire for “surgery as fashion.”
What happens when this very population is unable to make their organ payments is the central premise of this Goth-rock-opera (how apropos during an economic crisis in which we basically owe creditors our arms and legs): the Repo Man emerges from the shadows in his leather HazMat suit wielding variations of very sharp knives to reclaim GeneCo property — in this case, say, your spleen.
Shilo is unaware of many things that drive this wild narrative which is “hosted” by The Graverobber (co-creator/writer Terrance Zdunich). For example, that she knows the mysterious Repo Man personally, that Largo once lusted after her deceased mother, and that she may or may not have to submit to her genes after all. As she spirals down the proverbial rabbit-hole as a Suicide Girl version of Alice, we are plunged into saturated colors and freaky denizens who constitute the cerebellum of Dante himself. Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, and Nivek Ogre form the most memorable (read: disturbing) characters here as the feuding siblings of Largo, vying for ownership of GeneCo once their father is six feet under. This tragic trio is all kinds of wrong, but they offer some much-needed comic-relief — that is, if you find random stabbings funny.
They, like the rest of the cast, sing and shout and croon this sexy nightmare into existence — although none better than vocal angel Sarah Brightman as the stand-out “Blind Mag” — but all form a startling whole: an actual original movie on silver screens. Many will say “too original for its own good,” and while it is likely to appeal to a midnight movie crowd, Repo! should be acknowledged for taking the risk to be as disgusting and brilliant as no buttoned-down critic will admit it actually is.
Marco Mannone is an actor and writer living on the West Side of Los Angeles.