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.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
A perpetually stoned delivery man named Leo unwittingly delivers a package of 10 kilos of high-quality cocaine to the apartment across the hall from its intended recipients who are anxiously awaiting its arrival. It winds up in the hands of a couple of inept crooks Brody and Guch who look at it as manna from God and set about to sell it to Brody’s drug dealing cousin and his accomplice. Meanwhile their neighbor Jesus and his clueless girlfriend embark on a desperate search to find their stash before the unforgiving drug kingpin who sent it to them finds out it’s missing.
WHO’S IN IT?
A game cast led by Donald Faison (who also produced) as the inept delivery man provide the laughs in this Tarantino-esque screwball farce. Faison is quite funny as the stoner Next Day Air worker who sets the dominoes in motion with Mike Epps and Wood Harris expertly playing the "dumb and dumber" hoods who think they’ve found nirvana in the coke-laden mystery package. Also making an impression are Cisco Reyes as the Puerto Rican dealer sweating out the missing box of drugs Yasmin Deliz as his girl and Omari Hardwick as the cousin looking to make the deal. Mos Def steals his brief scenes as a colleague of Leo’s and Debbie Allen is smartly sassy as Leo’s mother/boss. Emilio Rivera rounds out the principal cast as the intense and unforgiving drug lord.
With all these divergent characters focused on one very valuable package director Benny Boom has his work cut out for him but he merges the various lowlifes in and out of focus surprisingly well. Sure they’re all stereotypes but each gets their moments to amuse. This is not brain surgery and Boom knows that milking the silly situation for all the laughs it allows. Next Day Air is better than it has any right to be (if you check your brain at the door).
The film should have stayed with the comedy (ala Pineapple Express) instead of inserting unnecessary grainily-shot violent flashbacks to up the body part count. It’s as if a committee decided there wasn’t enough bloodletting and told the director to insert these pointless scenes. The inevitable final showdown also seems out of place with the light tone set earlier but does provide no end of irony in wrapping up all the loose ends.
For full enjoyment don’t try to make sense of the fact that a seasoned kingpin would send such a large parcel of illegal drugs through a commercial courier service. Obviously there would be no movie if he didn’t but last time we checked no one was using FedEx to ship heroin.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Either way. At a breezy 84 minutes Next Day Air is an agreeable timewaster.
What do you get when a small-time crook gets whacked at the exact same time his baby boy’s born? Yes yet another crime story that’s driven by a quest for vengeance. A straight-A student living in a swanky Connecticut suburb Wilson De Leon Jr. (Rick Gonzalez) knows nothing about his late father. Nor for that fact does he ever wonder why his widowed mother Millie (Wanda De Jesus) insists on moving his family from one town to another at a moment’s notice. Unbeknownst to Wilson and his younger brother Millie’s been on the run since her husband died a bloody death for reasons left unsaid until Illegal Tender’s last bullet is fired. After she’s spotted by one of her pursuers Millie rushes home to pack her family’s bags. Only this time Wilson wants to know what’s going on. Then he decides to stand his ground. Which he does—at least until he comes to his senses and realizes that he’s putting himself and his girlfriend (Dania Ramirez) in harm’s way. Still Wilson’s not ready to let his loved ones be terrorized forever. Despite Millie’s protests Wilson heads off to Puerto Rico to take care of matters once and for all. And Illegal Tender quickly goes from vaguely interesting to boneheaded as soon as Wilson arrives in Puerto Rico. Oh and producer John Singleton deserves to be reprimanded for allowing writer/director Franc Reyes to rip off his own revenge saga Four Brothers. Guess Singleton thought what worked once would work again. How wrong he is. One look at Rick Gonzalez (Coach Carter) and it’s hard to believe he could punch a timecard let alone a thug willing to snap the skinny kid in two. He makes Shia LaBeouf look like Harrison Ford. Then again Gonzalez’s playing a scrawny little momma’s boy who’s all brains and no brawn—at least until Millie’s past catches up with her. So it makes no difference that Gonzalez isn’t physically imposing. The problem is that Gonzalez never comes across as book smart as his character is supposed be. Nor does he display much in the way of street smarts especially when Wilson starts to get his hands dirty. It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that Wilson never questioned how his mother always had huge amounts of cash at her disposal even though she rarely held down a job. And thanks to Gonzalez you never get the sense that Wilson’s ever one step ahead of his father’s killers. On the other hand the tough-as-nails Wanda De Jesus is such a commanding presence that you know immediately she’s capable of breaking the neck of anyone who tries to harm her family. If Quentin Tarantino ever needs another no-nonsense cougar to bust a few skulls he should look no further than De Jesus. Dania Ramirez (The Sopranos) also looks like she could beat the snot out of Gonzalez but all she gets to do is express concern for Wilson’s safety. In his film debut Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderón lends a little edge to the proceedings as a gangster who stands between Wilson and his quarry. Illegal Tender wants us to believe that Wilson has what it takes to go all Four Brothers on his father’s killers. That would be fine if Illegal Tender took its time transforming Wilson from naïve college student to angel of vengeance. Instead it’s taken for granted that Wilson’s his father’s son that all it takes is a couple of practice shots at some glass bottles to turn a boy into a man. Even then Wilson’s not much of a threat to anyone. This could be overlooked if director Franc Reyes at least gave Illegal Tender some vim and vigor. Instead Illegal Tender lacks urgency even when Millie and her family are fleeing for their lives. Everything falls apart once Reyes unnecessarily shifts the action to Puerto Rico. You expect Wilson to at least jump a few hurdles in his bid to find his father’s killers. But that’s not the case. Doors open quickly and easily for Wilson. Where’s the suspense in that? The motive behind the murder is not revealed until the end but it only will make you shrug your shoulders in apathy. Also after raising the moral implications of living off illegal gains Reyes conveniently brushes aside such a weighty matter in favor of sending mother and son into battle together. Yes Illegal Tender is filled with such warmhearted Mommy and Me moments of bonding. “Sometimes you’ve got to play the only chips you’ve got ” Wilson’s father says minutes before he’s killed. With Illegal Tender Reyes makes a real bad bet with the precious few chips he has and comes up a big loser.