Repo! the Genetic Opera is a rock opera set in the not too distant future (2056) after an epidemic of organ failures has devastated Earth. GeneCo, a biotech company that deals in organ transplants, arises as a savior. However, those who don’t make their payments are hunted by Repo Men who repossess their organs. In this grim world where murder is legal and people are addicted to surgery and painkillers, a sheltered 17-year old named Shiloh searches for a cure to her blood disease and information about her family’s history. Her questions and GeneCo’s founder, Rotti Largo, lead Shiloh to the Genetic Opera, where answers await.
There’s more to this grizzly movie from the producers of Saw than meets the eye. Originally performed on stage, its themes include freedom, choices, actions in the name of love, vengeance, and jealousy. After over a decade of enslavement, Blind Mag no longer wants to be GeneCo’s puppet nor the opera’s star. Raised by an over protective father, Shiloh wants what most teenagers desire, the chance to grow up and live their life. During her birth, Nathan had to decide between saving Shiloh or her mother. Nathan struggles with choices of the past and present and with his job as a Repo Man. Rotti Largo continues to seek revenge against those who crossed him, including his ex-fiancée. This may be reaching, but GeneCo can be seen as a representation of the medical industry. The surgery addicts can also be seen as those who constantly seek physical perfection through plastic surgery.
It’s due to the involvement of Anthony Stewart Head and Sarah Brightman, both of whom have an extensive musical background, that I heard about and wanted to see Repo! the Genetic Opera. Head’s complex role as the conflicted Nathan Wallace is a far cry from the geeky librarian he played in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Portraying two very different characters and being able to switch between them flawlessly shows how incredible he is as an actor. Similarly, whether crooning or belting he has an amazing voice and the music allowed Head to truly show his range. I wish I could say the same about the music for Blind Mag. Although I usually love Brightman’s singing, I found it lacking and think her talents as a soprano could have been put to better use. She did, afterall, set the bar at high C for the role of Christine Daaé in the Phantom of the Opera. I was fairly impressed by the singing of Alexa Vega (Shiloh Wallace) and Terrance Zdunich (Graverobber). Notably, Zdunich, who is usually a storyboard artist for movies, wrote the play, screenplay, and composed the music. Other cast members include Paul Sorvino (Rotti Largo), Paris Hilton (Amber Sweet), Bill Moseley (Luigi Largo), and Nivek Ogre (Pavi Largo).
Repo! the Genetic Opera is rated R for violence and red corn syrup, which there are plenty of, and because it’s a rock opera there’s minimal speaking. Narration is done in comic book format, which works quite well for the story set in a city darker than Gotham. Overall, it’s a pretty good film, but not for everyone.
Anthony Stewart Head, “Legal Assassin”:
Interview with Terrance Zdunich: