Is “Repo Men” a rip off “Repo! The Genetic Opera” or the other way around? Which came first? How similar are they?
“Repo Men“–starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker–is hitting theaters on Friday. The premise: In the future, there’s a biotech company that hires repo men to hunt down and repossess people’s organs provided to them by said company after they default on their payments.
In 2008, “Repo! The Genetic Opera“ had a limited release in theaters. It was a horror musical in which a futuristic biotech company hired a vicious repo man to hunt down and repossess people’s organs provided to them by said company after they default on their payments. Yikes!
First, the facts: Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith created “Repo! The Genetic Opera” from songs they had been performing in coffeehouses in L.A. for two years. By 2002, a full-length stage production took place in Hollywood with Darren Lynn Bousman as the director. In 2005, it played in New York. After making three “Saw” movies and a “Repo!” short, Bousman directed the 2008 film “Repo! The Genetic Opera.”
Here’s where it gets tricky: Author Eric Garcia‘s book “The Repossession Mambo” wasn’t published until 2009, but it had already been adapted into the screenplay for “Repo Men” before it was even published. Here’s a review of the “Repo Men” screenplay that dates back to 2007. This interview with Garcia from 2001 says he had already finished a draft of the book by then.
Well, it’s pretty obvious that “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” had its genesis way back in 1999. Outside of the premise, however, are the movies even that similar? A guy who calls himself Spooky Dan certainly thinks so. He’s written a detailed account of every single little similarity (right down to the first letter of two characters in the different stories being the same!) on his blog here.
The filmmakers themselves have been a bit more measured in their response, although the similarities in the marketing campaigns (see right) are pretty telling. Bousman himself posted a long blog about the history of “Repo!” in its many incarnations and Zdunich has every right to be angry, posting a blog that refutes an AMCtv article that stated at one point that “Repo!” was based on–get this–Garcia’s book that wasn’t even published yet.
Outraged fans of “Repo!” made their voices heard and the article was corrected, but the message here is very clear. Do NOT get these movies confused.
The “Repo!” guys have all but proved their script had nothing to do with Garcia’s, and Garcia says his unpublished novel was based on a short story he wrote in 1997 called “The Telltale Pancreas” about a guy who is “engaging in organ repossession to keep up the payments on his own artificial pancreas.”
So this is what we have: Two different ideas revolving around organ repossession that date back to the late 90s. Big deal. Know the films have nothing to do with each other and everyone’s happy.
The ultimate irony? Neither film was really able to capitalize on the really great sci-fi setup that is “organ repossession.” Each film is audacious in its own right, so I can’t fault them for that. But both fall short of doing anything really interesting with the big picture. “Repo!” is a larger-than-life soap opera that puts a troubled father/daughter relationship and the infighting of an extremely fucked up family front and center. “Repo Men” pulls a “Minority Report” and has the enforcer become the chased. Yawn.
Does this mean a third movie about organ repossession needs to be made? In Hollywood, I wouldn’t count anything out.
Some of us had our appetite for repo men in the movies sated back in 1984 with Alex Cox‘s (“Sid and Nancy“) bizarre, truly original, low-budget “Repo Man.” It starred Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton as a repo protegee and his jaded mentor and threw in everything from aliens to embryonic mosh pits to West Coast punk rock hooligans carrying out burglaries at low-rent convenience stores, not to mention the classic movie line: “John Wayne was a fag.”
That director, himself coming out of what seems like years of hiding, has a film coming out this year that looks to top them all in complete weirdness: “Repo Chick.”