By the year 2056, an epidemic of organ failures has devastated the planet. The megacorporation GeneCo provides organ transplants on a payment plan. Clients who default on payments are hunted down by Repo Men: skilled assassins contracted by GeneCo to repossess organs, usually killing the clients in the process. The CEO of GeneCo, Rottissimo "Rotti" Largo (as listed in a newspaper article about his kids), discovers he is terminally ill. Rotti's three children, Luigi Largo, Pavi Largo, and Amber Sweet (Carmela Largo), who changed her name to help her become a popular singer, bicker over who will inherit GeneCo. Rotti believes none of his children are worthy heirs, as they consistently embarrass him with their robust attitudes, and instead plans to pass on his fortune to Shilo, the daughter of his ex-fiance Marni.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Shilo Wallace longs to explore the outside world. She is constantly reminded by her overprotective father Nathan that she has inherited a rare blood disease from her deceased mother Marni which requires her to stay indoors. She secretly visits her mother's tomb and runs into GraveRobber, who is digging up bodies to drain Zydrate, a euphoric and extremely addictive pain-killer made by GeneCo that is secreted from dead bodies. He sells it on the street to keep up with his GeneCo payments. After losing consciousness, Shilo wakes up to find herself at home with Nathan. Nathan prepares for work, not as the doctor he has led Shilo to believe he is, but as the head Repo Man for GeneCo. Nathan believes he killed Marni with a treatment he created for her illness. In truth, Rotti poisoned Marni's medicine behind Nathan's back as revenge for Marni leaving him. Rotti blackmails Nathan, agreeing to keep him out of jail and with his then-newborn daughter Shilo if he performs surgical repossessions for the company.
Rotti lures Shilo to the GeneCo 1st Annual post-plague Italian Renaissance Fair with the promise of a cure for her blood disease. There she finds the Largo brothers arguing about their father's will, while their sister harasses Blind Mag, GeneCo's opera singer and celebrity spokesperson. Mag uses surgically enhanced eyes but works for Rotti indefinitely as a result, having been tricked into signing her contract in blood pre-surgery. After introducing her to Mag, Rotti stations his Genterns to guard Shilo. He then announces that Mag will soon give the last GeneCo-sponsored performance of her career. GraveRobber helps Shilo escape the fairgrounds. As they hurry through the city, GraveRobber encounters several of his customers including the surgery addict Amber, who has skipped the fair she was supposed to speak at, once again publicly embarrassing her father. Under the stupor of the drug, she explains that she will be replacing Blind Mag after her eyes are repossessed following the opera. After GeneCops arrive, GraveRobber and Shilo part ways and she quickly returns to her room before Nathan notices she was gone.
Rotti hires Nathan to repossess Mag's eyes but Nathan refuses, citing Mag's close relationship to Marni. He quits his repo job mid-surgery, telling Rotti, "I cannot do this job. Find someone else." This angers Rotti and he vows to have Nathan taken out. Mag arrives at Shilo's house and reveals she is Shilo's godmother. Mag states she was unaware Shilo was even alive, Nathan having told her she died with her mother. She cautions Shilo to not make the same mistakes she did. Nathan arrives home and forces Mag out after she scolds him for lying to her about Shilo's death. Meanwhile, back at GeneCo, Rotti writes down his will, ready to make Shilo his sole beneficiary with his signature.
Rotti phones Shilo and invites her to the Opera, delivering her mother's burial dress for her to wear. Nathan finds the GeneCops searching his basement. They try to arrest Nathan, but he quickly dispatches them and heads to the opera looking for Shilo. At the opera, Amber takes the stage for her premiere, but her performance is ruined when her transplanted face falls off. Mag takes to the stage and sings her final song. She deviates from the song's grand finale, denouncing the Largo family and gouging out her eyes in a final act of defiance. Rotti cuts the cords suspending Mag, dropping and impaling her on a fence. Rotti assures everyone that Mag's death is part of the performance and convinces the audience to stay seated.
Shilo sees a Repo Man arrive and attacks him with a shovel before realizing the Repo Man is her father. Onstage, Rotti reveals that Shilo does not have a blood disease but that Nathan has been making her ill with the "medicine" he insists that she take. Unable to deal with the loss of Marni, Nathan explains he was trying to keep Shilo safe from the world. Approaching death's door, Rotti tells Shilo that she will inherit GeneCo if she kills her father. When she refuses, Rotti uses the last of his strength to shoot Nathan. Rotti then dies from his terminal illness and Nathan dies with one last farewell to Shilo. Shilo then leaves, deciding that her father's murderous tendencies do not dictate her future and that she is "free at last" to live her own life. Since she didn't kill her father, though, Rotti has not signed his will and GeneCo does not belong to her.
In the epilogue, GraveRobber claims that Shilo fled, leaving GeneCo with no legal heir. A mid-credits scene reveals that Amber became GeneCo's new CEO and promised to change the repossession policy.Alexa Vega as Shilo Wallace, a 17-year-old girl confined to her room due to the alleged blood disorder she inherited from her mother. She is the film's primary protagonist, who dreams of exploring the world outside of her bedroom, which she considers her prison. While she initially strives to obey her father's rules, later in the story, she becomes more and more assertive, attempting to earn her independence. Prior to the story she has often snuck out of her room at night to collect bugs, and shots of her room shows she has an impressive collection.
Paul Sorvino as Rotti Largo, the primary antagonist; the ailing GeneCo founder and president, looking for a worthy heir. He is a powerful and driven man, having built his GeneCo empire from the ground up, and believes that material wealth is the only real driving force in the world. Aloof and controlling, Rotti regards people as tools and harbors resentment that while he was able to cure the globe, he can't prevent his own death. He sees his own children, Luigi, Pavi, and Amber, as "vultures" and "ingrates", and is bitter towards Nathan for "stealing" Marni from him. He is the one who arranged for Marni to be poisoned, in rage.
Anthony Stewart Head as Nathan Wallace, Shilo's father and a widower, having lost his wife Marni, a death which he (wrongly) blames himself for. He doubles as the head Repo Man to repay Rotti for "fixing" the circumstances of Marni's death with the police. He often laments his late night duties, but a sadistic second personality tends to seize him, leaving him a vicious killing machine as opposed to the kind-hearted, torn father. He is a very skilled assassin, being able to dispatch teams of GeneCops, using only his scalpel, on multiple occasions to save Shilo, and performing brutal organ repossessions with such ease that he can carry out a phone conversation with Shilo at the same time.
Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag, Shilo's godmother and Marni's best friend. She was born blind, but was given the ability to see by GeneCo at the price of having to sing for and publicize GeneCo permanently. After seeing Shilo at a GeneCo event (having been previously unaware she was alive) Mag reaches out to her, anxious for Shilo to not make the same mistakes Mag has made herself. She is marked for repossession and is set to deliver her final performance for the company.
Paris Hilton as Amber Sweet, Rotti's only daughter. Luigi and Pavi's younger sister; she is addicted to both surgery and Zydrate, which she obtains illegally from GraveRobber, in exchange for sex. She changed her name from "Carmela Largo" to "Amber Sweet", as she "needed a stage name".
Bill Moseley as Luigi Largo, Rotti's eldest son and Pavi and Amber's homicidal, older brother. He usually wears an ascot, wields a knife at all times, and is willing to stab at the slightest provocation.
Nivek Ogre as Pavi Largo, Rotti's middle child. Womanizing, narcissistic, vacuous, and effeminate, he wears the skinned face of a woman as a mask over his own, which is heavily scarred. Due to the way his face is attached, he is able to change faces on a whim. He has an Italian accent (to conceal his speech impediment, according to Zdunich) and is almost always surrounded by women, usually Genterns, the employees of GeneCo, who usually give Pavi his face surgeries.
Terrance Zdunich as GraveRobber, a Zydrate peddler who obtains the insoluble chemical from corpses and has connections to Amber, both sexually and as a dealer. He also seems to be Shilo's first and only friend and explains Zydrate and Mag's debt with GeneCo to her. Mysterious and charismatic, he acts as the narrator of the post-apocalyptic world.
Sarah Power as Marni Wallace, Nathan's deceased wife and Shilo's mother; she was Rotti's girlfriend until she left him for Nathan. A jealous Rotti poisoned her and framed Nathan for the crime.
Nancy Long provided Marni's singing voice for "Chase the Morning".
Joan Jett makes a cameo appearance during the song "Seventeen" playing the guitar. Dean Armstrong, later seen in Saw 3D, appears as the victim during "Thankless Job". Co-writer Darren Smith appears during "We Started This Op'ra Shit" as the GeneCo band leader. Frequent Bousman collaborator J. LaRose appears during "Zydrate Support Network" as a GeneCo spokesman.
A 7-track demo CD dubbed the "Pre-Surgery Sampler", was released on July 24, 2008. A 22-track soundtrack was released on September 30. Songs do not appear in the same sequence on the CD as they do in the film. On February 20, 2009, an extended edition of the soundtrack was released online. The "Deluxe Edition" contains 38 tracks; and the song, "Zydrate Anatomy", was re-cut and used in its film version for this edition. Melora Creager of Rasputina plays cello on the soundtrack.
In the film, the following songs are performed:Cut songs
Bits and pieces of some of these songs were used in the film. Most of the songs' scenes were cut entirely (*).
- "Crucifixus" - Mag, Ghostly chorus (used as the screen closes in to GeneCo; instrumental version used in film)
- "Bravi!"* - Mag, Pavi, Luigi, Rotti, Amber (end credits, a commercial that would have been used before "Mark It Up"; heard briefly between "Infected" and Nathan's Story)
- "Tao of Mag" - Mag (a commercial starring Mag that promotes the Genetic Opera; heard briefly between "Mark It Up" and Rotti's Story)
- "Can't Get It Up if the Girl's Breathing?"* - Amber, GraveRobber (Amber telling GraveRobber that there are other ways to pay for Zydrate; would have succeeded "Housecall") (also a deleted scene on the Blu-ray release)
- "Come Up and Try My New Parts"* - Amber (Amber seduces GraveRobber to get out of paying for Zydrate; succeeds "Can't Get It Up"; the scene is available on the Blu-ray)
- "GraveRobber and Shilo Escape" - GraveRobber, Shilo, Amber (GraveRobber and Shilo escape from the Italian festival; alternate version used in film, Amber not included) (also a deleted scene on the Blu-ray release)
- "Buon Giorno"* - Rotti, Pavi, Luigi, Genterns (Genetic Opera greeting; would have come after "We Started This Op'ra Shit!"; the scene is available on the Blu-ray)
- "Rotti's Chapel Sermon"* - Rotti (the scene was reedited to make up "Interrogation Room Challenge"; succeeds "Buon Giorno")
- "Needle Through a Bug"* - GraveRobber, Shilo (deleted scene where Shilo must pass another of Rotti's tests; succeeded "Rotti's Chapel Sermon"; the scene is available on the Blu-ray) and plays in its entirely during credits
- "Aching Hour"* - Blind Mag (Mag sings about her imminent death during the Renaissance festival; plays in its entirely during credits)
Includes songs only heard as instrumentals and not parts of any deleted songs: (* = instrumental)
- "Depraved Heart Murder at Sanitarium Square"* (First song heard in the film)
- "The Prognosis"* (Heard right after "Crucifixus")
- "Nathan's Story"* (Heard right after "Infected")
- "Rotti's Story"* (Heard right after "Tao of Mag")
- "A Ventriloquist's Mess"* (Heard right after "Thankless Job")
- "Blind Mag's Story"* (Heard right after "Seeing Your Stirs Memories")
- "Before the Escape"* (Heard right after "Inopportune Telephone Call")
- "Worthy Heirs?"* (Heard right after "Zydrate Support Network")
- "A Dump Truck Home"* (Heard right after "Disposal Crew")
- "The Visitor"* (Heard right after "Night Surgeon")
- "Pre-Happiness"* (Heard right after "Seventeen")
- "Not Your Parents' Opera"* (Heard right after "Bloodbath!")
- "Mag's Fall"* (Heard right after "Chromaggia")
- "A Ten Second Opera"* (Heard right after "Let the Monster Rise")
In 1996, Darren Smith had a friend who was going through bankruptcy and whose possessions were going into foreclosure. Inspired by this, Smith came up with the idea of a future where not only one's property, but also one's body parts, could be repossessed. Smith and Terrance Zdunich collaborated ideas and plot lines to create "The Necromerchant's Debt". The first version of Repo! was The Necromerchant's Debt, which told the story of a Graverobber in debt to a Repo Organ Man. It was first performed at the John Raitt theater in 2002. After being such a success, creators Smith and Zdunich expanded on the universe to create all of the storylines that became Repo! The Genetic Opera later in 2002. Many changes were made, gradually, to the characters and music throughout the show's various incarnations through 2005. For example, Rotti, in the earliest performances, was not the father to Luigi, Pavi, and Amber. Instead, he was a younger brother to Luigi and Pavi, while Amber was Luigi's daughter. Lyrics were adjusted to new arcs, and some songs were dropped altogether, for example, "But This Is Opera!", which was cut out in an effort to change the direction of Blind Mag's character. After years of being performed as a stage play, Repo! was adapted into a 10-minute short film directed and financed by Darren Lynn Bousman to pitch the idea to film studios. The film starred Shawnee Smith as Amber Sweet (then named "Heather Sweet"), Michael Rooker as the Repo Man, Kristen Fairlie as Shilo, Terrance Zdunich as GraveRobber, and J. Larose as Pavi.
Once Repo! was picked up by Lionsgate, principal photography began on September 2007 in Canada. The film was scheduled to be released on April 25, 2008, but was pushed back to November 7. X Japan member Yoshiki Hayashi produced the soundtrack, along with composing one extra track for the film. He also serves as one of the film's producers. Paul Masse was the cast's vocal coach for the film's soundtrack.
Due to Lionsgate's lack of promotion, director Bousman and creator Zdunich did much of their own promotion. To coincide with the film's release, Bousman, Smith, and Zdunich, as well as various cast members, did a Repo! Road Tour version of the film. The tour was set up for one-night screenings of the film in seven different cities across the United States. Principal cast and crew also did extensive Q&A sessions following each screening. Because of strong ticket sales, a second and third touring session were added, in addition to a British tour across four locations. A Repo! Road Show was announced on January 28 in 10 cities. This show was similar to the Repo! Road Tour, except it was almost completely fan-run.
The film received a limited release in the United States and Canada on November 7, 2008. It had a further limited Canadian release, playing in Toronto from November 21–27, 2008. It was released in the Czech Republic on November 20, this was followed by a theatrical release in Spain on January 2, 2009. In December 2008, several more US theatrical screenings were announced running between January 13–24, 2009 in several cities The Repo! Road Tour made its 4th and final leg (thus far) in Europe from March 7–12, 2009. After initial theatrical release and DVD sales, fan support has caused Repo! The Genetic Opera to be played in select theaters for the duration of 2009 and well into 2014, some with "shadow casts" in which a group of actors and performers re-enact the film in front of the big screen while the film is playing on stage, much like the followers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was re-released in a special screening at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International.
The film received generally mixed to negative reviews from critics. Critics polled on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 32% "Rotten", with the site's consensus saying, "Bombastic and intentionally gross, Repo! The Genetic Opera has a unique style but lacks the wit and substance to be involving." The film has a 32 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Kyle Smith of The New York Post concluded, "There probably aren't enough futuristic Goth rock musicals, but Repo! The Genetic Opera is weak on a couple of things a musical needs: music and lyrics." Nathan Lee for The New York Times declared the film "feels destined to please a campy coterie of fans and no one else" and criticized the music saying "A few catchy melodies, some clever lyrics or even a sense that the score wasn’t just one long, unmodulated track might have energized this singularly inert tale..." Tasha Robinson for The A.V. Club said " One of the main issues with Repo! The Genetic Opera is that nearly every aspect of it goes on too long. The songs are generally overextended, which is a particular problem given that most of them are also atonal and dull, either chanted or seemingly assembled from a series of clunky, ill-fitting, barely rhyming lines. " and ultimately "...I spent the vast majority of the film either bored or squirming with discomfort over the cheap gore, the arrhythmic songs, and the phenomenally bombastic performances..."
Repo! grossed $53,684 in its opening weekend, a $6,711 average per theater. The film's full eleven-theater release earned $146,750 in the United States, and an additional $41,376 internationally, for a total of $188,126 worldwide.
Hilton's performance won her the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress at the 29th Golden Raspberry Awards. At the same ceremony, Hilton was also awarded Worst Actress for her role in The Hottie and the Nottie. The songs "Chase the Morning", "Chromaggia", and "Zydrate Anatomy" were shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, although none were nominated.
The film was released January 20, 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States. In Canada, the DVD was released on January 20, 2009 and the Blu-ray was released February 10, 2009. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on March 9, 2009. It was released in Ireland on March 6, 2009. The DVD was released in Germany on April 14. The US DVD release contains two audio commentaries (one by Bousman and actors Vega, Moseley, and Ogre; the other by Bousman, creators Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich, and music producer Joseph Bishara), two featurettes (From Stage to Screen and Legal Assassin - A Repo Man), and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray contains all DVD features including a select-scene audio commentary by the director and Paris Hilton, an additional two featurettes (Zydrate Anatomy - Amber Sweet: Addicted to the Knife and Chase the Morning - Blind Mag: The Voice of GeneCo), a video sing-along with bouncing heart, four deleted scenes (Needle Through a Bug, Buon Giorno, Extended Version of Shilo and GraveRobber Escape, and Come Up and Try My New Parts), and the theatrical trailer.
The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released September 30, 2008 and only available through Amazon and iTunes. A deluxe version of the soundtrack was released on February 17, 2009. All the tracks from the previous release remain on the deluxe edition in the same order, with the new tracks placed in between some tracks, including score tracks. The only track that appears on both albums that differs is Zydrate Anatomy, where it is slightly longer on the deluxe edition.
In regards to the possibility of a sequel, Vega has been quoted as saying: "From the very, very beginning, we always talked about a prequel or a sequel to this film. And it's hard, because as of right now, we all want to do it, but, you know, it didn't really do as we hoped. We didn't really have a lot of support. But we're hoping that the fans will come back, and it will be an underground cult classic that will grow, and that will eventually spark us to do another." Bousman also indicated interest, stating; "I would love to follow up Repo and finish the story, because it was conceived as a three-part movie. But this movie is all about support from the internet, and support from fans. This is not a movie where you'll see billboards or bus stop ads or trailers on TV." It was additionally expected that Hilton would return in her role as Amber Sweet. However, in a video posted on YouTube, it was revealed that they "no longer control the answer to the question [of a future sequel]" since they no longer have ownership of the franchise, thus driving Bousman and Zdunich to make The Devil's Carnival.