Review: Legion

Aside from the sight of a monstrous granny climbing a ceiling on all fours, there’s little genre juice to these lackluster proceedings.

Photo: Screen Gems

Borrowing not only Assault on Precinct 13’s premise of strangers fending off attacking hordes while holed up in a building, but also its signature use of an ice cream truck as a vehicle for unholy evil, Legion has the good sense to mimic a classic but otherwise has no sense at all. Like The Book of Eli, Scott Stewart’s film pivots around the issue of true faith, interested as it is with an angel named Michael (Paul Bettany) who disobeys God’s orders to lead an apocalyptic military campaign against humanity by plummeting to Earth, severing his wings, and stocking up on artillery in the hopes of saving a baby destined to lead mankind to salvation. This child is in the womb of a waitress (Willa Holland) at an isolated truck stop diner in the Mojave Desert, where random folk (including Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, and Charles S. Dutton) converge just as an end-of-days swarms of flies and divinely possessed zombies begin to appear on the horizon.

Stewart attempts to elevate this few-versus-many conceit with an inquiry into the nature of religious piety: Is it blind obedience to His word, or does it also involve honest, compassionate questioning of His will? Given that rebellious Michael is the hero and dutifully murderous angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) is clearly not, Legion’s stance on the issue isn’t difficult to decipher. More frustrating than such predictability, however, is the hollowness of the film’s feigned theological struggle, which shares Eli’s advocacy of following the spirit, if not the letter, of the Bible, but never uses these concerns as anything more than faux-profound window-dressing for a story that mainly wants to get by on the B-movie-cool notion of angels armed with machine guns.

Alas, aside from the sight of a monstrous granny climbing a ceiling on all fours, there’s little genre juice to these lackluster proceedings, with Stewart unable to concoct any inventive or tense standoff scenarios to provide requisite action-horror anxiety. Instead, it’s all just so much screaming and shooting delivered via blurry camera pans and herky-jerky edits, and perpetrated by motley-crew characters—including Bettany’s supremely dull stoic-noble savior—whose grating one-dimensionality calls into question the wisdom of sparing the race from extinction.

 Cast: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Adrianne Palicki, Charles S. Dutton, Kevin Durand, Jon Tenney, Willa Holland, Kate Walsh, Dennis Quaid  Director: Scott Stewart  Screenwriter: Peter Schink, Scott Stewart  Distributor: Screen Gems  Running Time: 100 min  Rating: R  Year: 2010  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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