Repo! A Genetic Opera
Title: Repo! A Genetic Opera
Genre: Musical, Horror, Sci-Fi
Starring: Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head, Sarah Brightman, Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
With a whole host of stars in this one, it seems rather impressive that it snuck under my radar, and even if musicals aren't usually my genre of choice, with the director responsible for a good portion of the Saw saga (Saw II-IV) it would certainly appear as though this was not to be a typical affair; expect no shying away from gore – even if it never takes precedence – and a devilish plot that would rob this film of one of its greatest assets if I went into too much depth. Set in the dystopian near future, where organs can be bought for a high price and then brutally repossessed should you fail to make your payments; where cosmetic surgery has gone to a new extreme in must have necessity, springs this tale of the corporation responsible for such actions, GeneCo, and it's dark past. With the Repo man, Nathan, (Head) hiding his true identity from his sick daughter (Vega), he desperately searches for the cure whilst tackling with his debt to Rotti Largo (Sorvino), GeneCo's head and founder to whom he shares a shameful history.
There is always a fundamental issue with musicals and one that is often the point at which they stumble; it's not enough to find someone who is capable of bringing their character to life through acting, but they also need to be able to sing as well, and the number who can successfully do both limits options incredibly quickly and makes casting all the more essential, and here they haven't quite got everything right. For anyone whose seen the infamous singing episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” they should realise that Anthony Head (who played “Giles the Watcher” there) is a perfect choice and fits into the role of the repo man like nobody else could. Sarah Brightman, playing 'Blind Mag,' despite having little acting experience is a professional mezzo-soprano perhaps best known for performing in “The Phantom of the Opera,” so quite readily steals the show and seems vastly underutilised in the end result, and it is their two performances in particular that showcase everything this should have been, promising an epic experience you'll never forget.
But then there's Alexa Vega. The cute young starlet that I recognise the name from, recognise the face from somewhere and then midway through it hits you; that girl you just called cute was the child star you last saw in “Spy Kids,” and then suddenly comes the nausea (even though research shows she's the same age as me); that lump forming in your throat in the memory that only becomes easy enough to swallow when you hear her crackling voice sing some angst-riddled pop-punk with such reckless abandon that someone at some point must have told her she didn't sound awful, and all you want to do is gag her (again, making you feel a little bit like a paedo rapist) and pray that she takes the hint. Even Paris Hilton puts her to shame; the director smart enough to make any time she needs to sing last as short a time as possible, and to disguise her face enough so that you don't auto-groan whenever she arrives resulting in her actually delivering a shockingly good performance in her minor role. There were certainly worse choices for Vega's part – Miley Cyrus for some reason springs to mind – but that doesn't exactly make her appearance any the less problematic.
Bousman is certainly deserving of some commendation, and despite a run of mediocre films shows that perhaps somewhere in the brain of his are some interesting ideas in waiting, along with the balls to actually back them up. This could have been the greatest musical since “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and in its elaborate conception; the tangled web of a plot interwoven so quickly, never becoming confusing yet remaining unpredictable, there is no question that this will still see a growing cult status in the coming years simply for its novelty value. Mashing together the worlds of “Blade Runner” and the aforementioned “Rocky Horror” like nothing else that has come before it, it ultimately becomes hampered by some rather inconsistent performances and a dreadfully unmemorable soundtrack.
Note: Apparently this is a comedy. I honestly didn't realise; It's certainly not overly serious in tone but if there was a joke somewhere in all of this, I missed it. Unless the joke was Vega of course.