Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review - Legion

A small diner in the middle of nowhere is the setting for all manner of apocalyptic silliness in Legion, a baffling action film with biblical pretensions that ultimately works best as an unintentional comedy. It seems that God has lost faith in humanity – in the words of one character, "He's sick of all the bullshit" – and he has concocted a plan to end it all. There is hope, however, in the form of Michael (Paul Bettany), a rogue angel who has defied God and come to earth determined to protect the unborn child on whose destiny our fate rests. Essentially, Legion is little more than a zombie movie that leans on its theological references in order to appear as something deeper. God's plan, such as it is, involves sending an army of angels to earth, where they inhabit human bodies and shuffle towards the diner, only to be picked off by the inhabitants' defensive gunfire. That's Legion in a nutshell, although sometimes the angels will surprise everyone by livening up their act; like the weirdly elongated Ice Cream Man (a Doug Jones cameo), or the sweet little old lady who takes a bite out of somebody's neck before scampering across the ceiling.

That scene drew big laughs from the preview audience, and laughter is often the only type of satisfaction Legion offers. The film is so preposterous, so clumsily written, and so lacking in internal logic, that your best bet is to try and have as much fun with the ridiculous action (Charles S. Dutton throwing a frying pan at an old woman's head) or risible dialogue ("You want me to explain the nature of a motherfucking pestilence?") as possible. In fact, the film might almost be worth recommending for its enjoyably trashy nature were it not for an extraordinarily dull middle section that kills the film dead. With all of the characters trapped inside the diner, Director Scott Stewart takes this opportunity to dole out exposition (and not before time: for the first twenty minutes I didn't have a clue what was going on) and to indulge in plenty of soul-searching, but the writing and characterisation is too poor for this to be anything more than a tough, slow slog.

Stewart is making his directorial debut with Legion. With his background in visual effects (he worked on Bong Joon-ho's brilliant The Host, among others), that aspect of the film is effective enough, but the director displays no imagination in his staging of the action and little confidence in his work with the actors, many of whom seems to be coming at the material from different angles. Bettany glowers through his one-dimensional role as the taciturn hero, while Dennis Quaid overplays his turn as the diner's owner, and Lucas Black is simply terrible Рseriously, the guy can't even smile without making it look like he's having to think really hard about how to do it first. Every character is a cliché (a young black guy who carries a gun and is on his way to a custody hearing? Oh dear), and you can pretty much guess the order in which they'll meet their grisly end. Eventually, the angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) turns up to carry out the Lord's orders himself, but given the fact that carries an enormous spiked mace and has razor-sharp wings that can deflect bullets, one wonders why he simply didn't come down and take care of business in the first place. He could have saved us all a lot of wasted time.