Directed by: Scott Stewart
Starring: Paul Bettany, Adrianne Palicki, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, and language
There’s something really fantastic about a B-movie that does its job well. “Legion” isn’t trying to be “Citizen Kane,” it’s trying to entertain us, with a side dish of movie-style inspiration — and for the most part, it succeeds. Think of it as Chicken Soup For The Soul, if the soup were delivered by a gun-toting, tattoo-covered angel.
The setup is familiar, with one twist: God has lost faith in humanity and begun the Apocalypse — but this time he’s doing it by unleashing angels to exterminate everyone on the planet. The top of the list is the unborn child of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a poor waitress at a dusty diner on the outskirts of the Mojave Desert. Her baby is destined to lead humanity out of the God-imposed darkness of the end of the world.
The diner is populated by the standard collection of characters: lovelorn Jeep (Lucas Black), who’s totally devoted to Charlie even though he’s not the father of her baby; his father Bob (Dennis Quaid), a crusty divorced fella who’s as run-down as his diner; Percy (Charles S. Dutton), a veteran who’s seen it all and now flips burgers for Bob; and so on. Add a few city folk stranded for various reasons, and you have a nice little collection of people to face Armageddon together. The actors all do solid jobs, especially Black, who has the thankless task of making his slightly slow, not particularly brave character into a sympathetic hero.
Of course, if you’ve seen the trailers you know that the star of the show is the Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany), who falls to Earth, chops off his own wings, and brings a battalion-worth of weapons to the diner to make a last stand against the armies of God. Bettany is a natural for the part, his height and British good looks tying in naturally with his acting ability to create a very believable angelic soldier. Michael is a general refusing an order he believes to be wrong, and Bettany makes him thoroughly believable.
One of the things “Legion” excels at is taking things that are usually comforting and turning them into objects of dread. Here, sweet little old ladies turn out to have shark teeth — the better to tear out your throat, my dear. A little girl with a balloon is just another of the zombie-like possessed humans sent after Charlie to be mowed down by Michael’s machine guns. By the time that the mace-wielding Archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) shows up to finish the job the possessed couldn’t quite accomplish, we’ve seen enough carnage for a low-budget zombie flick.
Unfortunately, each killer action sequence is separated out by talky scenes between characters it’s kind of obvious are going to die. It’s not so bad if you like character development, but the uneven pacing detracts from what is otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
If you don’t mind the occasional meanderings away from religious horror and into quiet character set-pieces, “Legion” is a B-movie not to be missed. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for relentless action or just quiet character development, look elsewhere.