Paul Sorvino as Rotti Largo
Paris Hilton as Amber Sweet
Bill Moseley as Luigi Largo
Anthony Head as Nathan Wallace/Repo Man
Alexa Vega as Shilo Wallace
Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Last night I was invited to an early test screening of "Repo: The Genetic Opera," which was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed all of the "Saw" sequels to date. All I knew about the film was that it starred Paris Hilton and Paul Sorvino, and that it was a musical. The trailer I saw on You Tube didnâ€™t exactly thrill me much, but hey, free movie. So I was surprised to find I really enjoyed it, though I don't think that will be the universal feeling (the guy next to me walked out after a half hour).
The film's multiple storylines all revolve around Geneco, a company that specializes in organ transplants, which we are told is the new plastic surgery (the film takes place in 2057). The company president is a dying Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), and his children, including Paris Hilton and Bill Moseley, are eager to take over once he expires. Meanwhile, a young girl named Shiloh (Alexa Vega) is suffering from a rare blood disease, and her surgeon father ("Buffy's Anthony Stewart Head) is perhaps a bit too overprotective of her. He works as a Repo Man for Geneco, "reclaiming" organs from patients who failed to keep up with their payments, but is having second thoughts about his line of work, especially when his new target is Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman) who was a dear friend of his late wife and also Shiloh's godmother. How all these plot threads come together is part of the fun of the film, so I don't want to say much more.
What I really liked about the movie, besides the fact that it was just so out there and different, was how the songs never really stop. If the characters aren't singing, there are always instrumentals to bridge the vocal numbers. At first it's a bit strange, because I am used to musicals that are more song - talk - song - talk, and not all of the songs are full-fledged numbers (more than a couple are just a few lines), but once the movie's plot picks up steam there is no reason for the music to stop, because it's pretty fast and pausing would only hurt the pace. The energy the film has is unparalleled; if you thought "Moulin Rouge" was a sensory overload â€“ you haven't seen anything yet.
I wasn't familiar with some of the cast members, such as a guy named Ogre (he's from a band called Skinny Puppy â€“ sorry to say I am not familiar with them) as one of Sorvino's sons, but I was still surprised to discover that they were all pretty good singers. Even Bill Moseley carries a tune quite well, and I have to admit, Paris can sing. The cuts I heard from her album sounded like a machine, but you can tell it's really her singing here, and as an actress she fares far better here than in "House of Wax" (her role is also not very large compared to Vega and Head). There might be hope for her yet. The film's co-writer, Terrance Zdunich also has a role as a grave robber/drug dealer, and he's largely in the film to dispel exposition, but he also has one of the film's catchiest numbers. Bousman has cast from all sorts of backgrounds â€“ opera singers (Brightman), rock singers (Ogre), child actors (Vega), theater actors (Head), old school actors (Sorvino) horror stars (Moseley), and...whatever it is Paris Hilton does, and it actually works almost flawlessly. The songs vary from ballads to opera pieces to big rock numbers, so the varied cast fits the bill.
One thing I'm not sure about is the "horror" aspect. While there's a lot of killing and gore (mostly courtesy of Moseley and Head's characters), it's not exactly scary or suspenseful (nor is it supposed to be). But I think Lionsgate will have some trouble marketing it to the people who are expecting "Jigsaw Sings!" or something, because the violence is mostly played for laughs. The closest film I could compare it to would be "Phantom of the Paradise," but even that doesn't do it justice. I don't envy whoever has to figure out the best way to cut a trailer for the film (the current one is basically just one song in its entirety â€“ doesn't really explain what the film is about though). It's hard to even write a review. I wouldn't even know what genre to call it â€“ it's horror, it's a musical, it's a comedy, it's even got some light sci-fi and dramatic stuff.
In short, some movies you just have to experience for yourself, and this is one of them. Put aside any expectations you might have based on the cast or the filmmakers, and just take it in.