There is something visually stimulating about watching a tattooed, mussel-bound, angel cutting his giant wings and strapping on heavy artillery to fight an army of the undead in a blaze of bullets and smoke. That's exactly what Legion delivers, a retro, almost '70s type of action/horror film that also takes time to develop the characters so you care about what happens to them in the end. Visually, the film is groundbreaking and the style and tone go along way in creating something new and interesting on the screen. Paul Bettany has created a new on-screen hero as the fallen angel Michael and the battle scenes between him and the angel Gabriel in the finale are just awesome. The movie works because it has a nice blend of practical horror, believable CGI and kick-ass action sequences. The film is one part "Terminator" and one part zombie-movie mixed within the story of a religious Armageddon. It's something that we haven't quite seen done before like this and in such an original way. All the actors are excellent filling out their parts but it is Bettany as the angel that audiences will be cheering for. The film definitely delivers superb action combined with smart, sharp filmmaking and a clever plot.
The movie begins much like the original "Terminator" film with our hero, in this case the angel Michael (Bettany) appearing on Earth, naked and in a urban setting. Michael cuts his own wings off in a bloody mess and then strips himself of his halo. Next we see him putting on clothes, then accessing a hidden arsenal and packing as many bags with guns and weapons as he can find. Of course, Michael is greeted by some unfriendly police officers that threaten him. When one of the cops becomes possessed by a demon, Michael kills him and is on his way. It is clear from this opening scene that Michael is an "angel on a mission." This scene takes place pretty much before the opening credits and it's one of the best opening scenes in an action movie that I've seen in a while. However what happens next was not only surprising to me but I found it quite refreshing. The character of Michael, arguably the lead, vanished from the film and was not seen for at least another thirty to forty-five minutes and we were introduced to a whole new group of characters. I enjoyed the fact that the filmmakers had the balls to completely stop the action so we could be introduced to the rest of the cast properly, which really pays off in the end.
In the desert, quite a contrast from the city, we are introduced to a group of people in a dinner. First is the owner of the dinner, Bob played by Denis Quaid, who is concerned that his son, Jeep (Lucas Black) is wasting his time in the desert and should be out living life. Jeep is sticking around because he is in love with the waitress, Charlie played by the lovely Adrianne Palicki, who is carrying a baby that is not his. Jeep takes care of Charlie even though she doesn't exactly return his affections. Also at the dinner is Percy (Charles S. Dutton), the one-handed cook and a mysterious stranger named Kyle (Tyrese Gibson) who is lost and has an agenda of his own. Finally, there are the Andersons, Sandra (Kate Walsh) her husband (Jon Tenney) and their daughter Audrey (Willa Holland) who are stuck because their car broke down on the highway. Eventually, after some time getting to know our characters we are introduced to this sweet old woman. She seems harmless enough until she begins to eat fly-ridden, un-cooked meat and tells Charlie that her "F***ing baby is going to die!" The old lady then proceeds to eat half of Sandra's husband's face off and crawl around on the ceiling.
Realizing something is wrong here, Kyle kills the old woman and the group, begin to way their options. A few try to leave town in order to save Sandra's husband but are instead caught in a swarm of locus and must turn back. Alone and fearing for their lives, the action picks up when Michael arrives. Michael brings news of the coming apocalypse and that he is there to help. Apparently, God wants to wipe the slate clean and start over so he is sending an army of demons and angels to destroy mankind. The only hope for humanity is the baby in Charlie's stomach, who might just be the second coming of Christ. Michael explains that he disobeyed God and is there to protect the baby. Michael arms our cast of characters with his arsenal of weapons as they now must defend them selves from an army of the undead that includes a very creepy Ice-Cream Man (Doug Jones). In the end not everyone will survive and it will be up to Jeep to protect the woman that he loves and humanities only hope, while Michael will have to defend his actions in front of God and fight his former brother, the angel Gabriele (Kevin Durand) one-on-one in order to save mankind.
The entire cast is really good here in their roles. I liked that Quaid's character is not really heroic. He's kind of a schmuck at first who then does some heroic things in the end. We are so used to seeing Quaid play the hero that it is nice to see him take on a different type of role at this point in his career. Tyrese Gibson, who hasn't really been in that many films, shows that he is growing as an actor in this movie. He's kind of a secondary character in the film but he brings so much to the role that you can't help wanting to know more about his character. Kate Walsh, who is best known for the medical dramas "Private Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy" fits into the action genre quite nicely and plays very well off of actor Jon Tenney from TV's "The Closer," who also does a nice job here. Adrianne Palicki was very believable in the "Sarah Connor" role and shows that she could have a future in the action genre as well. Kevin Durand, who was last seen in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" as the Blob and had a pivotal role on "Lost" is the perfect foil to Michael as the film's antagonist, the archangel Gabriel. In fact, without giving anything away, I was really impressed with the final battle between the two angels. It alone is worth the price of admission.
Finally, no one in the film industry plays creature characters better than Doug Jones. From his work as the Silver Surfer in the "Fantastic Four" sequel to all the characters he played in "Pan's Labyrinth," Jones is the master of playing strange and creepy characters and his Ice-Cream Man from this film is no different. But in the end, it is Bettany who steals the film with his quiet and commanding performance. The actor who is commonly seen in more dramatic films like "A Beautiful Mind" and "The Da Vinci Code" feels right at home as the action hero and I hope to see Bettany in more films like this in the future. The script is clever and witty and has an original take on this genre that was refreshing. Director Scott Stewart does a great job of orchestrating the action and horror with the human story of the characters. Ultimately, if you like action and horror you'll love "Legion." It's un-holy fun!