Scott Stewart’s “Legion” is a shockingly palatable filmic experience, especially given the heated critical hatred the movie inspired earlier this year. The movie was trashed by reviewers across the globe, and its box-office totals weren’t exactly jaw dropping.

Still, despite this mire of pessimism, “Legion” still offers enough silly thrills to garner a moderate recommendation. It’s pure Friday night rental fodder, but with a couple of beers and a tolerance for awful dialogue, it amounts to an acceptably executed 100 minute diversion.

God has lost his patience with humanity, the race having exhausted any possibility for redemption in their creator’s eyes. As a result a swarm of death and destruction is unleashed upon the planet, with special attention being directed towards a pregnant waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki). Her unborn child remains the only hope for mankind’s survival, and as a result it has been made the most important target of the forthcoming apocalypse. As a demonic throng attacks the remote diner in which Charlie works, the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) arrives, having defied his master’s orders, his intentions to save Charlie and the baby. As the other inhabitants of the diner desperately attempt to understand what’s going on, Michael prepares for outright warfare, fortifying the building and arming the residents with high powered weaponry to combat the evil forces trying to enter. Michael suspects the key is holding out until Charlie can give birth, but with each passing hour the bloodshed increases and their resistance looks more likely to snap.

“Legion” marks Stewart’s directorial debut, his previous line of work having been in the world of visual effects. As a result it isn’t surprising that “Legion” is at least a polished looking affair, the film boasting some atmospheric cinematography and ample FX work. The film’s colour scheme is rather variable, but Stewart consistently keeps the mood pitched in the realm of despair, oscillating between vacant sun baked locations and foreboding darkness. The film does a good job of creating an aura of isolation, concocting a believably distant tone for the action to unfold within. Society feels far detached from the hell raising shenanigans we see onscreen, allowing “Legion” to cultivate a rather naturalistic tension. At no point do we feel that help is on the way for the central characters.

The picture attempts to mould together action and horror, the overall product a certifiably mixed bag. There are moments of Zombie siege that hark back nicely to the works of Romero, these sequences benefiting from genuine suspense and some restrained yet taut action beats. The numerous minions of death featured in the film are a rather unsettling bunch, special mention going to Jeanette Miller as an elderly woman with a penchant for bloody steak and walking on the ceiling. Stewart does a good job of displaying visceral ferocity in the earlier sections, but fails to maintain the momentum when the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) enters the mix during the movie’s third act. Conceived as an obvious opposite to Bettany’s honourable Michael, Gabriel just isn’t that intimidating due to Durand’s limp performance. The final act of “Legion” is definitely the least successful; the filmmakers overusing the bland nemesis and resorting to a series of hazily edited hand to hand combat moments. “Legion” works far better when it’s the protagonists holed up in the diner, desperately sniping at all manner of ghouls and spirits.

The religious undercurrents are slapped on a little too obviously at times, although there are cool instances such as a crucifix shaped explosion to enjoy. The story is pretty thin, and the dialogue hysterically bad, but “Legion” does boast a nice line in visual invention, scoring moments of pure B-movie bliss as God attempts to unleash chaos against the main characters. A scene in which a victim is crucified upside down and covered with pulsating skin ulcers is commendably gross, equally is the moment in which a car is infested by thousands of ravenous locusts. Stewart does a grand job of making “Legion” interesting for the eyes, even if at times it’s insufferable for the ears.

Bettany is a veritable badass as Michael, everything from his arrival at the diner to his departure at the film’s climax reeking of smouldering cool. The British actor favours a less is more approach with the hero, and the results are terrific fun.  The supporting players aren’t as appealing, most of them drawn as obvious screenwriting stereotypes. Palicki and Dennis Quaid (playing the owner of the diner) are agreeable enough, but Lucas Black (portraying Quaid’s son and a sickeningly simpleminded love interest for Palicki) is dreadful, failing completely to connect with the audience during his numerous scenes.

Ultimately “Legion” is a cheesy and intensely schlocky product, with a final shot as hackneyed as any in Hollywood. However it coasts along at a decent clip and provides oodles of ridiculous entertainment, all wrapped up in a rather upmarket aesthetic. As a result it’s worth a look one of these days, and whenever you do see it, cheerful giggles are sure to follow.

6/10

Daniel Kelly