Selling a mainstream Hollywood movie in January can be tough in today’s semi-sophisticated market, in which people are finally beginning to wise up and realize that the month is just one big dumping ground for the stuff the studios weren’t prepared to pay to market in the autumn. So here Screen Gems went with the unorthodox strategy of marketing this film by displaying Paul Bettany’s abs on every billboard they could find.

It’s not the worst idea ever, and Legion is not the worst thing ever released in January, though it is highly unlikely to replicate the unprecedented success tasted by last year’s stand outs Paul Blart and Taken. The story, a piece of celestial fiction, finds Bettany playing Michael, a rebellious angel who has come to Earth to protect Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) and her unborn child, because God has just unleashed an extermination plan meant to wipe humans off the face of the Earth. It’s nice to see Palicki on the big screen though she’s really only doing a slight variation on her trailer trash/beauty queen TV persona, only here she’s all knocked up and ready to give birth to mankind’s salvation.

The vast majority of the film takes place in a rundown diner outside of Scottsdale, where our typical cast of characters basically sits around and wait for God’s pissed off army to arrive. Arming themselves with big ass guns and a lot of prayer the team hunkers down and tries their darndest to best back the aggressors thus making the plot very reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead or Assault on Precinct 13. Director Scott Stewart does a good job of pacing the film and providing dark, creepy imagery. He does nothing, however, to explain exactly how it is that the All Mighty God isn’t quite mighty enough to create mercenaries who are impervious to bullets. There is also a none too subtle anti-abortion message that slips in there and echoes the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad in that it reminds you that that baby you are about to kill just may be humanity’s last hope. Not that anybody who showed up to watch angles get it on will notice or care but he may be hoping to neutralize his chancy decision to use God as his super villain here.

The cast is comprised of some well known names; chief among them is Dennis Quaid who has decided that the perfect follow up vehicle to GI Joe is an apocalyptic thriller aimed at the lowest common denominator. Really, Dennis? Come on, you’re killing us here. He plays all rough and tough and does his usual worthwhile job but it’s nothing that any other decent actor out there could have done. Charles S. Dutton is also on hand here playing a severely misguided man who seems motivated solely by some disturbing fatherly advice that was dished out to him many moons ago. Then, last and certainly not least, there is Jeanette Miller. Now by this point much has been made of her crazy insane performance as the possessed, flesh eating granny who sits down for a nice raw meat meal and ends up giving the diners a startling glimpse of what lies ahead. It is a highly camped out scene that provides more of a rush than you would think a film like this is capable of.

The early, easy alliance you are supposed to make as a viewer is with Michael, he is out there going to bat for mankind and that is something we can all get behind. But we really shouldn’t just dismiss God’s point of view. What about the way man has (mis)treated man throughout all of history? One flip through the whole of human history will leave you wondering why God didn’t give up on us eons ago. In the film our side is represented by characters such as Audrey, a trampy little girl with no personality and her mother, an insufferable nag who never stops complaining. We only bring this up to remind you that just because we are told by the makers of this film to root for these characters does not mean that these characters actually give us any reason to root for them.

Upon sitting down to watch Legion one might expect 90 minutes of acute suffering to follow, so when the movie ends and you aren’t actively bleeding from the eyeballs you might jump to the wrong conclusion that you just watched quality entertainment. Yes, there is some fun to be had but considering the price of admission the audience should be entitled to more than just well filmed shots of people having frying pans bounced off their heads. So while it’s not quality entertainment, it is a classic case of a director who aimed really low and accidentally hit a bit higher than he hoped for.

Starring: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson
Director: Scott Stewart
Writers: Peter Schink, Scott Stewart
Runtime: 100 minutes
Distributor: Screen Gems
Rating: R
 

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