Sunday, 10 October 2010

Fly Hard

Legion 2010 US
Directed by Scott Charles Stewart
Sony DVD Region 2
When I first saw a trailer for Scott Charles Stewart’s debut feature Legion, and then saw the poster which had an angel with a machine gun on it, I was really up for seeing it as soon as it came into the country. I love movies with angels in them (mostly)... Capra's It’s A Wonderful Life and Wenders' Wings of Desire are two of my favourite movies but... angels with heavy automatic weaponry... I couldn’t wait.

My fervour for seeing this movie had been further stoked by winning a copy of the soundtrack album of the movie from Ain’t-It-Cool-News signed by the composer John Frizzell, who I’ve been listening to on and off since his brilliant score for the incredible but very short lived TV show VR5 - why they released a soundtrack CD at the time to a TV show which only ran for about 6 episodes before it was cancelled is anyone’s guess but nevertheless, good show and good score. As is his score for Legion.

So was I disappointed or elated when I got to finally see this movie at the cinema after having set myself up for such a high fall? Well, look, I bought the DVD to watch it again and review here didn’t I? Please read on...

Ok... so there has been a history of good movies at the cinema where a small group of people are holed up in a building trying to hold off a large number of antagonists who want them all pretty much dead. In Howard Hawk’s Rio Bravo, for example, John Wayne, Dean Martin and Walter Brennan try their best to keep a prisoner in their jail against some ranchers who want him out of it. John Carpenter’s excellent Assault on Precinct 13 is pretty much a remake of this but with a less reasonable motivation behind the attacks as a group of police and a criminal team up to hold off against a local gang that wants them all dead (the not so bad remake gives a more rational motivation for the attacks). His own Ghosts of Mars was again another variation on a theme of this... only with Martian ghosts in it. Another classic example of this kind of movie would be George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which follows pretty much the same pattern... except the antagonists in that one pretty much want to eat anyone inside the house who still has a pulse.

Legion is another of these kinds of movies and so people who enjoy the ingredients of those films will probably be okay with Legion. The plot is very simple... God gets fed up with mankind so he brings down the apocalypse and wipes out humanity but one angel disobeys orders and holes up in a remote diner in the desert to help a woman carrying the unborn new messiah in her belly survive until God cools down a little and changes his mind about this whole apocalypse thingy.

Paul Bettany plays the angel in question and he shares the diner with the usual (but decently enough acted for a genre flick) bunch of misfit stereotypes and a large consignment of automatic weapons he’s liberated from an arms showroom. Why does he need automatic weapons? Because when an angel possesses the soul of a human they become evil, shark toothed zombie demons to kill everyone - but technically they’re still human so bullets can stop them. Like the old lady who bites people in the diner and then jumps on the ceiling and starts crawling on it, which is what kinda gives it away to the people in there that something a little different is happening in the world at that time (actually this is a pretty funny scene and well worth the price of admission). Or the ice cream man who’s limbs extend so he can spider run against the people in the diner (why an angelic-zombified-ice-cream-man-of-terror would want to do this, however, is anyone’s guess).

Things get pretty interesting in a social misfits bonding kind of way until you hear the terrible sound which means Gabriel must be blowing his horn. He then arrives to fight it out with Paul Bettany’s hero angel Michael and it is in this scene that you find why angel’s wings are a shiny metallic colour... it so they can spin around in the air covered by them and ward off multiple machine gun bursts in showers of vivid sparks of course!

The final scenes of this movie do not play out in the diner and it’s not completely as obvious as it seems... although, this being a Hollywood movie and all that, you can be pretty safe in guessing the end isn’t all as pessimistic as it looks like it’s going to be. Actually, there’s a wonderful scene where they could have left it with a certain amount of poetic ambiguity... any readers who are familiar with the endings of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Amando de Ossorio’s second entry in the Blind Dead series, Return of the Evil Dead will know what I’m talking about. But the film goes past that and adds on another couple of chase/stunt/fight set pieces before giving the audience its have your cake and eat it conclusion... but it’s an okay ending to a really not bad little genre movie so I’m not about to complain.

Really liked the claustrophobic diner setting and the quasi-religious tone of the movie. It’s kind of like Kevin Smith’s Dogma in a way... but without the humour and the absolutely unbelievable acting which graces that film. Definitely one to watch in my book. This movie maybe deserves a little more attention from horror/fantasy movie fans than it’s currently got... I do believe. Hole up in your living room with copious amounts of alcohol and give it a spin!

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