The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
As a thriller the film grinds its teeth and drives its heels into the ground focusing on a bloody battle between a 14-year-old sociopath and 32-year-old pedophile. Cherubic Hayley (Ellen Page) meets fashion photographer/sex troll Jeff (Patrick Wilson) at a coffee shop after flirting on the Internet. Jeff is the type of criminal who has pictures of underage girls hanging on his walls but he’s suave and sophisticated. Sensing a live one he invites Hayley back to his apartment to take pictures and get intimate. Hayley who talks like a woman twice her age has different intentions. She’s on to Jeff’s aberrant tendencies and they make her angry--very angry. In fact Hayley’s rage is so powerful she’s planned an elaborate payback strategy to emasculate the poor guy--both physically and emotionally. The film twists and turns toward an ending. There’s an imbalance problem when a young-adult actor has to play opposite--and be an equal to--an adult. Page a 19-year-old Canadian actress who’s starring in the upcoming X-Men: The Last Stand doesn’t have the gravitas or life experience of an older actress. When she reels off her vindictive revenge lines it’s hard to believe her intensity. She can’t match naturalism with Wilson who earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in HBO’s Angels in America. Wilson is eerily charming as the pedophile unlike the simmering prohibitively weird restraint of Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman. Scenes with Page and Wilson feel at times like acting even if the script’s punch (by USC professor Brian Nelson) is top notch. And who’s that Golden Globe winner popping up in a last-minute cameo? It’s Sandra Oh in her last pre-Grey’s Anatomy role as the nosy neighbor. Hard Candy drew attention at Sundance 2005 provoking discussion about its morality. First-time British director David Slade has a music-video background working with Tori Amos Aphex Twin and System of a Down so stylistically the shaky frenetic digital camera work underscores the Red Bull bloodstream of the film. Candy evokes stunning violence especially with its elegant opening-credit segment reminiscent of American Psycho. But Hard Candy also has a few fatal conceits which sink its credibility. First how can a 14-year-old girl attend high school and live a double life as a vigilante? And the final intense confrontation between Hayley and Jeff seems contrived. Their dialogue slows the momentum when it is needed most. Still the subject matter is fairly provocative especially for this digitized age. It will perk up your ears.