Diner Serves Apocalypse, Easy on the Destruction
By MIKE HALE
In “Legion” the world ends not with a bang but with a short stack. Recycling motifs from “The Birds,” “Near Dark,” the “Terminator” films and other apocalyptic fantasies, the film convenes a collection of strangers — upper-middle-class white family with issues, black father with handgun, etc. — at a diner in the Mojave Desert, where they are caught in the crossfire of a celestial battle.
Their task is to mow down waves of angelically possessed humans (easy to kill even by zombie standards) and hold off a mace-wielding ninja angel while waiting for the diner’s waitress to give birth to the child who will save us all.
Unfortunately, the script by Scott Stewart, who directed, and Peter Schink emphasizes stagebound melodramatics and banal television-style catharsis over action and humor; it’s like “The Petrified Forest” (the 1936 film of Robert E. Sherwood’s crisis-in-a-diner play) with assault rifles. The leaden dialogue and flat-footed storytelling hobble a talented cast that includes Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, Jon Tenney and Kate Walsh; only Paul Bettany, as an action-hero angel who takes the humans’ side, and Adrianne Palicki of “Friday Night Lights,” as the pregnant waitress, appear to be taking things seriously.
Amid a bull market for end-of-days tales, “Legion” stands out for its explicitly biblical underpinnings and its claustrophobia. There are no orgies of planetary destruction; the action almost never leaves the diner, which may be just as well, since a short scene in heaven looks as if it were filmed on the set of a community college Shakespeare production.
Directed by Scott Stewart; written by Mr. Stewart and Peter Schink; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by Steven Kemper; music by John Frizzell; production designer, Jeff Higinbotham; produced by David Lancaster and Michel Litvak; released by Screen Gems. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes.
WITH: Paul Bettany (Michael), Lucas Black (Jeep Hansen), Tyrese Gibson (Kyle), Adrianne Palicki (Charlie), Charles S. Dutton (Percy Walker), Jon Tenney (Jay), Kevin Durand (Gabriel), Willa Holland (Audrey Anderson), Kate Walsh (Sandra Anderson) and Dennis Quaid (Bob Hansen).