From the director of several of the Saw movies comes one of the strangest movies of the year, Repo: The Genetic Opera. Perhaps best known as the latest Paris Hilton flick, the picture is an amalgam of gothic lore, gore and song, but it's just too strange for its own good.
Repo is set in a surrealistic future where disease has put organs into such high demand that a biotech company has implemented an organ financing program. With many people addicted to surgery and painkillers, this more affordable approach is appealing - but if you miss your payments, the repo man will come and repossess your organs. The movie follows one sheltered girl - who happens to be the daughter of a prominent repo man - as she is drawn into the murderous world of GeneCo. Beyond that... well, I won't even bother.
Repo walks that fuzzy line between brilliantly unique and downright terrible, and it's often hard to tell which camp it falls into more. There is an alluring element to Darren Lynn Bousman's horror-opera, as the dark yet colorful world he has created feels like a charmingly low budget Tim Burton nightmare. The characters, while hardly appealing, seem inspired by a mixture of gothic emos, vampires and drug addicts, and one can't help but give credence to someone who could make a movie about such people. The songs, at time, have their charm in an R-rated Nightmare Before Christmas kind of way. Again, the picture feels like a tripped out Burton flick.
Still, the movie is hard to watch. Its plot is so strange that it's hard to appreciate, and the decision to narrate through the use of comic books is rather odd. Character development is negligible, even for the star, Alexa Vega. Vega, whose last recognizable film was Spy Kids, turns in a pretty good performance, but when set against characters that range from sleazy to downright murderous, it's hard to find much to cling onto in general. Hell, when the guy who tears out innocent people's guts as a job is meant to be one of the good guys, that's a bit screwed up.
As for the music, for every song that works, there's another that doesn't, and it's clear that few of the actors have much singing talent. When Paris Hilton is the strongest of the bunch, you know you have a problem. The actors' inability to sing fluidly does work in the picture's favor at times, keeping it rough and unchiseled, but it's mostly just distracting.
When all is said and done, there's something to Repo: The Genetic Opera, most notably its rough and low budget feel, but Bousman just doesn't have the directing chops to pull off something like this. Frankly, though, Bousman needs to learn that good movies don't rely on gore - something the young director has yet to realize. With a few tweaks, Repo could have been a cult classic; instead, it is hardly watchable.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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