“Repo! The Genetic Opera” (2008). Catastrophic pandemic causes people’s organs to shut down. GeneCo comes up with a solution — give people replacement organs. There’s only one catch: if you can’t make your loan payments, they get repossessed.
The world is stricken with millions of deaths due to multiple organ failures. From the chaos and the death comes GeneCo with their replacement organs. Run by Rotti Largo (Paul Sovino), he seems to be the savior of the world. That is, until he sponsors a bill through Congress that allows the repossession of organs.
If you can’t pay, the Repo Men are sent out to reclaim company property.
If this plot seems a bit familiar, two years after this film, Universal would make “Repo Men”. (It’s about a corporation that repossesses artificial organs. Only without music.)
Rotti is found to have a terminal illness. He has to decide which of his three children will inherit. His son Luigi has a murderous temper. Kis other son, Pavi, wears a fake face that he steals from others. His daughter, Amber Sweet, is addicted to surgery and the black market painkiller Zydrate, which is provided by the Graverobber.
It is like “King Lear” without Cordelia.
To say the film is quirky is an understatement. Set in world that mixes Goth faces, Victorian clothes and settings, and Holographic technology along with an incredible rock soundtrack, it is almost impossible to look away.
In this world lives Shilo Wallace, with her widower father, Nathan, who tried to save his dying wife. That ended badly, and his wife died by his hands. To avoid jail, Nathan is forced to become a Repo Man for Rotti. Actually, Rotti slipped poison into Nathan’s cure, killing the woman who married Nathan, after she threw Rotti over for him. Rotti’s revenge was incomplete as Nathan did manage to save his daughter, Shilo, who has the same blood disease that was killing her mother.
With the prospect that one of his terrible children taking over his company, he seeks out Shilo, intent on making her the new face of GeneCo. Of course the old face, Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), has to be removed.
Nathan is told he must repossess her eyes.
Blind Mag was Nathan’s wife’s best friend and Shilo’s godmother. Of course, Nathan refuses.
1. Nathan’s refusal to kill Blind Mag makes him a target to be killed for crossing Rotti.
2. Rotti wants to make Shilo his heir.
3. Any heir other than one of the three kids will inspire their rage.
4. Blind Mag has accepted her fate.
5. Nathan dons his Repo Man suit, killing any of Rotti’s soldiers that try to kill him.
6. Shilo is picked up in a limo and will be wearing a dress once owned by her late mother.
And everyone on is headed to the one place where everyone will be that night…..The Genetic Opera.
The audience is in place. Let the Opera begin.
The Graverobber, who seems to show up the way Tuttle does in the movie “Brazil”, says it will be a bloodbath. Sure enough, Amber Sweet’s fake face falls off on stage, showing the blood and sinew beneath. Blind Mag sings her swan song, finishing with “I would rather be blind” and removing her eyes with her long fingernails. Rotti cuts the ropes holding her up, so she is impaled on the fence behind her.
Shilo is told that she can be cured if she stops the Repo Man , who of course is her father.
All ends up on the stage. Shilo is presented with a choice: kill Daddy and be cured and get GeneCo. She refuses. The lights go off and Rotti shoots Shilo’s father. As Rotti is dying, he disowns his children on stage and collapses. Shilo and Nathan reconcile as Nathan lies bleeding to death.
Shilo leaves the Opera, saying “No” to taking over GeneCo. Amber Sweet takes over the company, flanked by her two brothers.
Originally, like Rocky Horror, this was a stage show. And the movie has all the feel of, not just a show, but an opera. There is dialog. But there is more singing than talking. There is a great range of music, going from hard rock, to music hall ditty, to hip-hop. Characterizations are marvelous, with my favorite being Nathan, who jumps from loving Father to crazed Repo Man as easily as one changes their socks. The murderous son, Luigi, chews the scenery with his over-the-top bloodlust. Even Paris Hilton, who portrays Amber Sweet, does a great job and fits the role perfectly. And no one looks better in Victorian attire than Sarah Brightman. Alexa Vega is excellent as Shilo, showing a wonderful vocal range.
I found evidence that this film occasionally ran on a double bill with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I would have paid to see that double feature.