Paul Bettany seems to be the go to guy for religious roles in the year of our Lord, 2010. Later this year he plays a vampire killing priest in “Priest,” and out this week he takes on the role of God killing Charles Darwin in “Creation.” In fact in the past he has portrayed another rouge priest in “The Reckoning,” and the albino assassin monk in “The Da Vinci Code.” With all of those mortal roles enforcing the word or God have prepared him to portray the gun toting angel, Michael, in “Legion.” Back in the good ol’ days of 2003 Bettany was starring in two of the year’s best films, “Master and Commander,” and “Dogville,” but how far the mighty has fallen. The actory street-cred Bettany brings to “Legion” lends a air of gravity to the otherwise ludicrous story, and elevates it to a some-what fun B-Picture, but the film neither takes itself too serious or not serious enough to make it truly one of the elect.
In the beginning Michael falls to Earth, cuts off his wings with a quasi-Klingon looking blade, and then goes gun shopping, which is a great start for the ridiculous script by Peter Schink and director Scott Stewart, and as the story progresses it gets more and more absurd. As it turns out God is fed up with men and instead of sending a flood – that is so 4000 B.C. – he decides to just have Angels posses weak minded men and have them slaughter the strong. In a reason that is never adequately explained a an unborn child in the uterus of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a slightly trashy waitress at a dusty two-lane highway truck stop in Middle-of-Nowhere California is actually the key to mankind’s salvation, and all the angels in Heaven, save one, want the little bugger dead. The lack of explanation as to “why” is one of the script’s major failings. Why would God, the supposed creator of all things living, decide to wipe out the human race, but at the same time send a saviour into its midst? And if he didn’t send the little bundle of joy, then who did, and how will this kid grow up to be a second Messiah? It is all very confusing, though truth be told, I’m not a theologian.
Logic aside Michael ventures out to this decrepit greasy spoon to protect the unborn child having disagreed with the Almighty’s opinion on the human race. As all of Cloud 9’s foot soldiers descend on the truck stop, conveniently named Paradise Falls, a fairly decent cast of TV and film actors get caught in the fray. Playing the obligatory, grizzly proprietor Dennis Quaid uses his time on screen to grumble cynical wisdom to his well meaning, but kind of dumb, son played by Lucas Black, who bares the burden of one of the worst movie names in history, Jeep. TV Thespians Kate Walsh and Willa Holland play the mother/daughter contingent of an affluent family stuck at the dinner due to some car trouble. As the one armed short order cook, and the only one ready to believe in the End of Days, is Charles S. Dutton, and as the Gangster with the heart of Gold that beats right next to his .45 is Tyrese Gibson, both cast in cliche African-American roles that run just shy of being offensive. It never ventures into offensive territory because, despite the oft-times silly script, the film stays steadily entrenched in the middle of the road.
Though Stewart’s direction seems to try to push each character toward a different personality type, everyone stays a little too similar. Had he made each of the eight characters a symbol of why man should be destroyed or saved by God the film could have taken on a larger importance, but as it is “Legion” is little more than a diverting two hour action picture.
Nonetheless some of the action is fun. The angel/demons that posses the humans are simple though fun adversaries, and the one scene featuring a particularly aggressive child is pretty amusing. The most entertaining and inventive sequence is the fight between Michael and the Archangel Gabriel complete with some spinning acrobatics and bullet proof angel wings. As it turns out an M-4 Automatic machine gun is little use against one of God’s army – who’d a thunk it?
Unfortunately the film never really goes far enough in any way. With its all-too-“Terminator” ending this movie could have been an over the top bizarre action camp fest with religious over tones, or it could have been a overtly self-serious meditation on mankind’s strengths and weaknesses, but it never falls into either category. Bettany and Quaid put in some admirable work, as does Kevin Durand as the brutish, but caring Gabriel. However for all their trying this film cannot be promoted to Heaven or doomed to Hell, but is forced to languish in the Purgatory of mediocrity.
El Luchador Rating: 3 out of 5
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)