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Legion
Genre Horror
Year: 2009
 
Review:

Okay, so I've heard about Angels with Dirty Faces and Angels in the Outfield. I never thought I'd live to see the day angels started toting Thor's hammer and The Punisher's weapon of choice... until I saw Legion. When God realises that humanity isn't getting any better he decides to scour mankind from the face of the Earth. It's not a rapture, it's more of a nine plagues rolled-into-one zombie apocalypse. Michael, thinks God may have been a bit harsh and decides to sever ties with heaven by surgically removing his wings behind a dumpster and rallying behind humanity's last hope, a pregnant woman in a desolate roadside joint. It's basically an apocalyptic nativity story complete with a roadside manger and ordinary folks substituting Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

Legion's cast comprises of Paul Bettany (The Da Vinci Code), Lucas Black (The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift), Dennis Quaid (Horsemen), Tyrese Gibson (Death Race) and Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). On paper, it's a pretty decent mix of hit-and-miss actors with some good experience. The problem is that they're all playing supporting roles with a half-hearted attempt at a lead from Paul Bettany. It's missing that cult edge that only a Christopher Walken, Christian Bale, Crispin Glover or even Simon Pegg could muster. Unfortunately, these actors don't really add much more than their star power and could have easily been replaced by a solid b-movie performances from an unknown cast.

Legion is also not original by any means, yet combines its energies to create something borrowed, something new. It blends the worlds of angel apocalypse in The Prophecy 3: The Ascent, the gun skirmishes of Gabriel, the outback monster mayhem of Tremors, the Winchester pub bit from Shaun of the Dead and the claustrophobic stronghold action of Assault on Precinct 13.

The Prophecy 3 was a straight-to-video release with Christopher Walken, who starred as Gabriel guiding the trilogy to its third and final chapter with some vivid and impressionable imagery. It wasn't a classic horror, but achieved instant cult notoriety for Walken's involvement as the lead. Gabriel, an Aussie fantasy is another strong influence, turning the Matrix-type angel gun play into more epic and serious religious territory with an apocalypse in Legion. The high ammo blasting isn't really between angels anymore, yet echoes a similar dark, horror atmosphere.

Tremors, that classic sand worm b-horror with Kevin Bacon is witnessed in the roadside diner's off-the-beaten-track isolation and lock-and-load rooftop action as the angel-possessed humans trap our heroes in a scenario similar to Shaun of the Dead's Winchester zombie lock down. This claustrophobic single locale setting is reminiscent of John Carpenter's take on Rio Bravo, Assault at Precinct 13 in which the inhabitants of a police station are forced to defend themselves against a street gang.

The influences are not really surprising when you consider this is visual effects guru, Scott Stewart's first feature film as director, writing alongside fellow debutant and Barb Wire's editor, Peter Schink. If you're expecting crackling dialogue from a visual effects buff and editor, you'd be wrong. The script bristles with sappy one-on-one TV drama moments between action sequences and painful, cheesy one-liners to "up" the action set pieces. The performances hang onto the hack script with all their might, but are simply there to facilitate the action, style and visuals.

You can admire these film-makers for wanting to create an original film, free of horror cliches and jam-packed with dark religious torment in the face of an apocalypse. However, the film's attempt to remain earnest in all the unintentional laugh-out-loud moments and its inconsistent pacing render it a misfire. Instead of running with the cheesy horror comedy moments in a similar move to From Dusk to Dawn 2, Tremors or Shaun of the Dead, they try to remain stoic and committed to the lame script and cool visual effects.

Legion isn't a throw away film, in fact you probably wouldn't regret renting it if you picked it out at the video store. It's got the straight-to-video appeal of dumb horror actioners that allows you to engage without syncing your brain with your eyes. Spotting the horror references and tuning into the influences are half the fun in Legion as hordes of possessed humans wage war on the small roadside diner. To add insult to injury, Legion ends with a setup for a sequel... a little too presumptuous for some. All in all, it's a lightweight zombie showdown with a decent cast, plenty of style and enough horror action to get you through the drawn out patches of drama. Really can't recommend it, but would suggest that you wait for it to come out on DVD.

The bottom line: Deep-fried.

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