Thursday, February 5, 2009

Repo! The Unique Opera

Blade Runner meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That’s the self-proclaimed description Repo! The Genetic Opera yields from co-creators Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith when asked about their 21st century rock opera turned feature film. They aren’t lying.

In the year 2056 a worldwide epidemic of organ failures leads to a biotech company, ran by Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), known as Geneco to begin an organ-financing program. As long as the customer can pay his or her debts, their organs are safe. Otherwise, the Repo Man (Anthony Head) takes back what belongs to Geneco. Repo! focuses specifically on the daughter of the Repo Man, Shilo (Alexa Vega), and her search for the truth about her past.

Repo! The Genetic Opera, which was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, best known for his work on Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV, is unlike any other film I’ve seen. Consisting of actors with varying amounts of talent, a unique stylistic approach and catchy tunes set to a resonating industrial rock soundtrack that lingers in your head for days, Repo! is an instant cult classic.

The film’s cast is a motley collection of names that range from classically trained singer Sarah Brightman to tabloid favorite Paris Hilton to industrial rocker Nivek Ogre of the influential band Skinny Puppy. These names in addition to the likes of Bill Moseley, Alexa Vega, Anthony Head and Paul Sorvino is just one of the reasons as to why Repo! lights up the big screen.

The performances are good as each actor takes full control of their character. The cast features such varying degrees of talents and areas of specialties that it’s an absolute treat to see it all come together the way it does with both their singing and acting.

The effort of hardworking co-creators and composers Smith and Zdunich absolutely shows off. With any musical or opera on film comes the judgment of the songs. This film passes with flying colors as far as I’m concerned. The tunes are as catchy, clever and fun as they need to be. This isn’t meant to be the best of the best. It’s definitely not the average operagoer’s cup of tea. It’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show of our generation.

For a budget of only $8.5 million, small by today’s standards, Repo! has great production value. The sets are simply lavish and are the true visions of Smith and Zdunich. The film is a visual feast partly comparable in style to Blade Runner. Costumes such as the leather-clad Repo Man complete with mask and the different clip on faces of deceased women that Pavi Largo wears are immediately synonymous icons of the film.

Admittedly, Repo! isn’t a film for everyone. It’s violent, grisly, offbeat, strange and just plain different. Apparently distributor Lions Gate thought the same. Instead of giving this film the wide theatrical run that it deserved, the creators of the film were left with a short road tour exposing the film to a select number of markets.

While business will always be business and Lions Gate will keep pushing sequel after sequel of the tired Saw series into theaters, it would have been nice to see this film on a wide market. This is a film with blood, sweat and tears poured into it. Then again, Lions Gate has been a joke of a company for years now and will continue to be one as long as films like Saw keep them afloat financially. It’s unfortunate that the executives at Lions Gate were unable to see the brilliance and absolute creativity that is erupting from Repo! that the fans have fallen in love with.

I suppose Repo! was meant to stay in the cult arena. Mainstream critics with large soapboxes such as Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz on the television show At the Movies presented absolute disgust with the film, making the term gore synonymous with bad film. Now, everyone deserves an opinion, but this doesn’t entitle anyone to baseless ones. In fact, Mankiewicz called it the worst film of 2008 without ever presenting the audience reasons as to why other than thinking the film took itself far too seriously. Pity the ignorant.

Normally I would never let such critical drivel seep into my reviews but when Lyons says that, and I quote, “I don’t know if words can describe just how awful, disgusting and insulting this movie was to watch, to make.”, I can’t help but use my significantly smaller soapbox to set things straight. To make? Really? How awful this was to make? Not to digress from the true point of this review but I can’t even understand how one can deduce that from seeing a film. Either way, Lyons never gave one hint of cohesive argumentation in his video review of the film, throwing the small amount of credibility his E! Entertainment celebrity coddling ass had out the window.

Getting back on track, you’ve never seen a film like Repo! The Genetic Opera. This is a special film that I urge you to give a look at. Watch the trailer. If you like even part of what you see, give this film a shot. If you love the film go buy the DVD. With Lions Gate looking merely at dollar signs and the opinions of goof mainstream critics, the fan support of this film must be substantial in order to produce more films in this vein.

Repo! is the sort of film that gives me hope. It signifies that there are still brilliant minds out there creating niche genre films from the heart for the fans. Maybe this will be the start of something new.

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