How's this for a future: In the year 2056, which will look like a post-consumer apocalypse, one company will have a monopoly on designer plastic surgery and organ transplants, giving easy financing terms with gruesome, life-ending repossession if payment is not rendered on time. And there will be songs, lots of songs.
Adapted by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich from their own stage production and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (whose previous efforts include three of the "Saw" sequels), "Repo! The Genetic Opera" is like a true opera in that the film almost exclusively features singing instead of dialogue. Unlike an opera proper, there are comic book panels and captions to handle the gaping holes of necessary additional exposition.
This film will answer once and for all the question of just how big is the Venn diagram cross-over between Goth genre nerds and spazzy theater geeks. Imagine the blood-stained jazz-hands!
The film is bad -- not good-bad, tacky-bad or fun-bad, just plain awful and nearly unwatchable. "Repo" has feet of lead, with none of the frenetic grace or swooping lyricism that make a musical film, well, musical.
The score is mostly a tuneless, fake-industrial throb, without a catchy hum-ability. At times it seems as if "Repo" is some sort of parody of old-world Italian filmmaking, with all the singing post-recorded (and often drenched in reverb), so mouths and the sounds emitting from them are disconcertingly dislocated.
The only performers who seem to have any grasp on the material and its tone are co-writer Zdunich as the grave-robbing narrator, and former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" cast member Anthony Head. Alexa Vega has a reedy, thin voice that at times works for her acting, but isn't much to listen to as a singer.
It seems the production has had to cut around the ubiquitous Paris Hilton, as she is never glimpsed in anything but brief, fleeting shots and her hoarse bark of a singing voice is used as little as possible. And poor, poor Paul Sorvino -- what a road from "Goodfellas" to here.
Do not be fooled into thinking that "Repo! The Genetic Opera" is some sort of high-camp "Rocky Horror Picture Show" in the making. That sort of delightfully savant-level awfulness cannot be constructed, it can only occur organically. A bargain-bin "Sweeney Todd," none of the infectiousness, the wit or the fun have been successfully transplanted to this faux "Opera."
'Repo! The Genetic Opera'
MPAA rating: R rating for strong bloody violence and gore, language, some drug and sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour,
Playing: At Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; and Laemmle's Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-6500.