In Theaters: Legion

Movieline Score: 3

Scott Stewart deserves credit for making Legion into a film that could be described as both a blasphemer's delight and a right wing Christian propaganda flick, but I suspect the audience it finds will be closer to the geek/stoner collective, who will take in its self-serious absurdity smiling with glee. Stewart, a veteran effects artist making his directorial debut, co-wrote the script with Peter Schink, and I suppose sharing the blame is something of a blessing, should they ever called to account for it. An apocalypse horror film crossed with a reverse Exorcist premise -- God, and not the devil, is possessing the weakest of the human race and having them turn against the strong -- I would prefer to think that Legion was written by a Final Draft program possessed by Pat Robertson's subconscious.

Michael (Paul Bettany) fits that bill: Having disobeyed God's order to kill the unborn child of an unwed mother before it is born and saves the human race God -- having grown disgusted with our "bullshit" -- has decided to exterminate, Michael goes AWOL. After cutting off his wings (gross) and making a bitching entrance through a fiery crucifix-shaped hole he blows through a wall (that's how he rolls), Michael has his first encounter with a possessed cop. We have to watch the process of possession several times, and it goes like this: they shake like jackhammers and make rattlesnake sounds, then their eyes go black and their teeth turn into little baby shark teeth and they speak like Bea Arthur on quaaludes. Then Paul Bettany comes and blows the shit out of them, hopefully before they have bitten a chunk out of someone's neck while quipping about their impending doom.

Unfortunately he doesn't arrive in time to save one of the patrons of the Paradise Falls (genius!) truck stop somewhere in the Arizona desert. In a series of pro forma set ups, we are introduced to the collection of people who will have to band together to save humanity: there is Charlie (Adrianne Parker), the pregnant waitress, "Jeep," Lucas Black, her dopey protector and not the father of her child, Bob (Dennis Quaid) the owner of the truck stop and Jeep's dad, a couple (Kate Walsh and Jon Tenney) and their skanky daughter (Willa Holland), a lost passerby with a court date (Tyrese Gibson) and a loyal cook (Charles S. Dutton) who is summed up in his introductory shot as a believer (crucifix on his neck), a veteran (dog tags too) and an amputee (the camera rests on his steel hook hand). When a crazy grandma comes in cursing and chomping and crawling on the ceiling, the group notice that something's up.

Michael arrives shortly thereafter to clue them all in to the end of the world, although he really takes his time. Although God has lost faith in the people he created, but Michael isn't so sure; he is defying God in the hopes of showing him what's needed. He also has an incredible arsenal of weapons, which he hands out the dazed diner occupants. Together they weather wave after wave of zombie-fied killers, who are flocking toward the diner to kill Charlie and her baby and ensure that the human race is done for good. Oh and it's December 23rd, did I mention that? There are so many random swipes at symbolism and theological import here that rather to cohere into any sort of religious allegory they are drafted into league with the film's campy (let's hope) joke. It's all too stupid to be affecting or even scary.

The ultimate angel battle royale between Michael and Gabriel (Kevin Durand), who alights to finish what Michael won't, is as goofy as they come: lots of meaningful eye contact and wing-span preening in between gasps and erotic bloodletting. And who knew Gabriel had such a way with a Medieval battle flail? I suppose it might have been more entertaining had it not felt so much like I was laughing with the filmmakers as at them.



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