reviewed by Marc Glassman
Repo! The Genetic Opera. Darren Lynn Bousman, director and co-producer. Darren Smith & Terrance Zdunich, script and music. Starring: Alexa Vega (Shilo Wallace), Anthony Stewart Head (Nathan Wallace), Sarah Brightman (Blind Mag), Paul Sorvino (Rotti Largo), Paris Hilton (Amber Sweet), Ogre (Pavi Largo), Terrance Zdunich (GraveRobber), Bill Moseley (Luigi Largo)
Poor Shilo Wallace! The 17-year-old has been shut in a mansion all her life, guarded against a life-threatening blood disease by the mysterious Nathan, her overly protective father.
While Shilo “has it bad,” the world “ain’t so good.” Repo! The Genetic Opera is set in yet another dysfunctional world of tomorrow. In this one, a wave of organ failures has given rise to a nefarious conglomerate that provides transplants — at a price. The biotech firm GeneCo, run by Rotti Largo, is hailed as the world’s saviour but inevitably there’s a price: if you don’t pay, repo men take back your life-saving organ.
The chief Repo Man is none other than Shilo’s dad Nathan — a doctor by day and assassin per night. Yep, it seems that Nathan is working out a debt he owes to Rotti for saving the baby Shilo as her mum, Marni, was dying. Melodrama not being dead in this pessimistic future-scape, it is hardly surprising that Rotti and Nathan both loved Marni and that the opera singing Blind Mag was the dead lady’s best friend, Shilo’s godmother — and latterly Rotti’s lover.
When Rotti discovers that he’s dying of a disease that even an organ transplant can’t cure, he realizes that Shilo should become his future heir. Far better that it’s her instead of his children, the ferociously angry Luigi, disfigured Pavi or drug-addicted Amber. And — for obscure reasons — the beauteous Blind Mag must die.
TV of the future broadcasts events ranging from opera to the wildly incorrect news. As Repo! The Genetic Opera reaches its conclusion, Rotti, Luigi, Pavi, Blind Mag, Nathan and the winsome Shilo all take the stage for a performance that will rock a nation.
Using comic book panels to illustrate the complicated back-story and an overwrought music video aesthetic to visualize the future, Saw franchise director and writer Darren Lynn Bousman has stayed true to the musical and script contributions of his old theatrical colleagues Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich.
Unfortunately, it’s the music that really lets this project down. The lyrics are terrible and the tunes are sub-standard variations on Rocky Horror. In an over-the-top film that is so bad it’s bad — not campily so bad it’s good — one performance stands out: Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag. The rest is “sound and fury signifying nothing.”