The initial setting of Legion just screams Maximum Overdrive, and that’s far from the only parallel. For the unfamiliar, that’s horror author Stephen King’s first and only time behind the camera as a director. The experience was so bad that King has refused to undertake it again after constant interference with the studio, the budget, and even the soundtrack. Still, what results is a damn entertaining flick that King himself describes as a “moron movie”. While Legion is far from the campy pleasure of watching the lesser Sheen/Estevez brother machine-gun a semi truck, it’s still a pretty entertaining moron movie.
Michael (Paul Bettany) is an angel. Or rather, he was an angel. He turns against God, cuts off his wings, and plunges to earth for one reason: to protect the human race from the wrath of their creator. God’s sick of us humans ruining everything He’s given to us, so He’s going to destroy the world. Not with fire or flood, but with angels. Also with flies, but mostly angels, who have to possess the bodies of a variety of weird-looking extras instead of, you know, swooping down with flaming swords and slaying people wholesale.
Humanity’s only hope is in the form of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a pregnant waitress in a dingy little diner. I’d say it’s a small town diner, but there’s no town to be seen. Just Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid)’s Paradise Falls diner, Charlie’s trailer, and the trailer of local yokel Jeep Hanson (Lucas Black), who is also Bob’s son. It’s business as usual in Paradise Falls: Percy (Charles S. Dutton) is on the grill, Bob’s trying to get the TV to work, and the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) is coming to town to kill Charlie’s unborn baby.
Legion is far from a smart movie. It’s a pretty dumb B-movie that’s going to make for an excellent Rifftrax some day. It’s the sort of thing that rents really well alongside a case of beer, some takeout, and your funniest friends all in the same room.
The script, from Peter Schink and director Scott Stewart, starts out as amusing and violently fun, but loses steam quickly as the siege wears on and Kyle Williams (Tyrese Gibson) stops cracking wise. It’s like they decided halfway through production that they needed to make the movie more serious and less scary so as to avoid the deadly horror-comedy trap.
The dialog, aside from Kyle’s few moments in the sun, never rises far above standard genre cliché, which is a shame considering just how good this cast could be with the right material. I mean, Bettany is a little creepy-looking, but he’s been nominated for multiple BAFTAs! Charles S. Dutton and Dennis Quaid are very well-respected character actors. Hulking beast Kevin Durand is one of the few actors who has material enough to work with as Gabriel, but he gets less screen time than everyone else in the film. Still, he’s one of the better performers in the movie, which is pretty impressive given who he’s up against.
Legion also tends to fall into the trap of the handicam shooting style that is so prevalent these days. It’s dark and a bit shaky at all the wrong times, but there are enough wide shots and enough steadycam work to keep the film from sinking to the level of a vomit inducing blurfestival, a la Gamer. Some of the movie’s best shots make liberal use of the beautiful desert filming location, but a lot of that is wasted by shrouding the movie in budget-saving darkness. Sigh.
I can’t say that Legion is a good movie. It loses itself in too many standard moments and has a little too much predictability for that. However, it wasn’t boring. There were enough odd-looking angel-possessed extras, random exploding cars, and Paul Bettany competently wielding a machine gun scenes to keep the movie moving at a very entertaining pace. Aside from a couple of dragging moments in the middle, it kept up the violence and gun play, and that’s about all you can ask for in a movie like this.
US correspondent Ron Hogan has always wanted to fire a Heckler and Koch G36K. As such, he is available for the coveted role of Bearded Henchman #1 in any low-budget action movie willing to have him. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
Legion hits UK cinemas March 5.