The film proposes a future in which an epidemic has created a need for genetically manufactured replacement organs. Enter GeneCo, a company that not only develops these lifesaving organs, but has also developed a painkiller derived from dead human bodies to make the surgeries and recoveries more palatable. This, of course, sets off a trend for elective surgeries to make over your insides (as well as your outsides). But, these surgeries are not cheap, and if you can't pay, well, the repo man comes!
I'll just put out there that, in my head, this is a totally realistic future. Medicine, like anything else, is an industry, and making money has become just as important as saving and improving lives. And I fully believe that there is a place in the future where if you can't afford that new nose job, someone will come to your house in the middle of the night and slice off your nose, leaving you bleeding on your pillows.
The movie is, as the title suggests, a rock opera. But, while some of the singing skills are a bit suspect (I'm looking at you, Paul Sorvino), the music is intense and a bit outside even what one expects from a rock opera. As a slice of background, Repo! was originally conceived of as a 10-minute opera, and from there morphed into a stage show, eventually becoming a film.
The film has a pretty ecclectic cast. It centers around the drama between two families, the Wallaces and the Largos. Rotti Largo (Sorvino) is the founder and president of GeneCo. His three children, the violent Luigi (Bill Moseley), the mask-clad Pavi (Ogre) and the surgery-obsessed spoiled heiress Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton). Rotti is dying, and has no intention of leaving his money and his empire to any of his disasterous children. Instead, he wants to leave the whole lot to Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega), a 17-year-old girl dying of a blood disease.
But why Shilo? Well, her father, Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head), stole Shilo's mother from Rotti. When she became ill with the blood disease Shilo inherited, Rotti replaced the medication Nathan gave her mother with poison, causing her to die and Nathan to take drastic measures to save Shilo. When Nathan realizes his wife's death was his fault, he is so distraught and so afraid of having Shilo learn the truth, he is conned into becoming the Genetic Repo man, hunting down people who default on their organ payments and leaving them dead in the streets.
The whole thing comes to a head when Shilo is lured out of her home by Rotti and learns from Amber Sweet and Graverobber (writer Terrance Zdunich) that Genetic Opera star Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman) is about to have her eyes repossessed. Blind Mag, as it turns out, was Shilo's mother's best friend, so Shilo, not knowing her father is the Repo Man, begs him to help her find a way to save Blind Mag.
The film is visually stunning, which makes up for some of the more garbled singing, and it's incredibly sexy. But, more than that, there's so much for you to think about in it. The surgery craze, the quest to make even your intestines as attractive as possible, the sense of corruption, the post-apocalyptic morality, the drugs, the sex, the violence. Basically, if you want it in a movie, Repo! has it.
And, if nothing else, when Paul Sorvino turns to Paris Hilton and says, "You're disgusting," you can live vicariously through him.