This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
As someone who has played altogether too much Fallout 3 in his life, it’s always disappointing to see the name “Paradise Falls” used in films and not take the opportunity to have it overrun with super-mutants and slavers. In Legion, it’s used as the location of a remote diner / petrol station in the middle of the desert, owned by the grumpy old Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid). Assisting him in what’s about to become hell on earth are Percy (Charles S. Dutton), Bob’s son Jeep (Lucas Black) and a heavily pregnant waitress Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), whom Jeep happens to be deeply in love with.
An unusually busy day for the diner sees a squabbling family of three stranded there, along with Kyle Williams (Tyrese Gibson), who has a certain hint of the gangster to him. A more unusual visitor on this particular day is the Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany), who warns of the forthcoming apocalypse based fun and games. Turns out, for no particularly explicable reason, the bun in Charlie’s oven is the only hope for the future of mankind and he’s sworn to protect her.
Seems that God’s decided to hit the franchise reboot button on Planet Earth, and rather than the usual boring “big flood” option, he’s going old-school. He’s taking over the minds of ‘the weak-willed’ and converting them into, err, stretchy limbed zombie monstrosities and unleashing them on the remainder of humanity. Original! The big man’s still got it.
Still, turns out these horrors are not immune to mankind’s greatest inventions, high calibre weaponry. So, the scene is set for a somewhat bizarre firearms based defence of the diner that, inevitably, is going to see a good number of our heroes meet grisly ends.
Now, the trailer for this looked quite exceptionally terrible, and it’s somewhat subverted my expectations by not being utterly irredeemable. Not, you understand, that it’s good, or even anywhere on the acceptable side of mediocre. There’s still a few elements in there that, to my very great surprise, aren’t completely obnoxious.
There’s a few pretty amusing lines scattered throughout. Once you get over the incredible bombastically high concept plot it settles down into a mildly entertaining Terminator / Zulu / Every Zombie Film Ever groove. They’ve even managed to find a character suited to Dennis Quaid’s absence of charisma in the irritable diner owner. There’s glimmers of something decent in here, amid the problems.
However, there’s a lot of problems. Chiefly, to me at least, there seems to be a massive disconnect between the script and the direction. This film is, for the most part, played so straight-faced and earnestly that when it tries to present something so insanely high concept such as, say a rebel Archangel teaming up with humans to face the forces of evil that arrive in an ice-cream van that it comes across as laughable rather than dramatic.
With a lighter touch, this could have been an awful lot of fun. As it stands, it’s pretty disconcerting. The massive difference between what I perceive, at least, to be a more knockabout script and the absolute po-faced gravity that everyone involved seems to be taking it is more than enough to sink this film.
Bettany, I’m sure, does everything that’s been asked of him in his role, but really an awful lot more should have been asked of him. He is, after all, supposed to be an angel, not just another guy, which is very much how it’s played here. A more ethereal or other-worldly slant to the character would perhaps have helped sell the concepts better, or at least better than making him grimace and wield an assault rifle would.
There’s other problems, in as much as none of the effects work or acting performances ever get above ‘acceptable’, and I’m probably just being generous to it because I’m genetically incapable of truly hating any film where an old woman gets sconed in the head with a frying pan thrown by a dude with a hook for a hand.
So even despite that there sconing, a recommendation to avoid is hereby issued.