By Roger Moore
The diner, as always, is a dive in the desert.
There’s always a broad slice of humanity in it.
And then these mismatched folks — young and old, rich and poor, face real terror and must band together to survive. Because here come the zombies. Or vampires. Or vampire bikers.
But in “Legion,” the assaulting hordes are demons and angels from heaven. And these angels and their spawn aren’t taking any prisoners. God’s given up on the human race and is ready to wipe us out. Again.
Profane, profanely silly and blasphemous to beat the band, “Legion” begins well, then plunges into the abyss of tedium. For a few minutes the most preposterous movie of the new year’s cast and crew recognize it as preposterous and play along. Actors gape in terror and awe as the skies darken and the Biblical Apocalypse begins, with bugs and people possessed by angels converging on the Paradise Falls diner in the Mohave Desert.
Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Adrianne Palicki and others yell “What the hell IS this?’ as hell rains down on them. Charles S. Dutton shouts, “I gotta get my Bible. SOMEbody’s got to start praying!”
And then the angel Michael played by Paul Bettany and not John Travolta this time — shows up, fresh from whacking off his wings, robbing an LA gun shop and stealing an LAPD patrol car. He’s locked and loaded. And he’s on humanity’s side.
“It’s started. There isn’t much time.”
Not that this outpost of humanity trusts Mr. Harbinger of Doom.
“Let me see them teeth!” the grizzled diner-owner (Quaid) demands.
“No shark teeth, Pop!” the owner’s son, named Jeep (Lucas Black, from “Friday Night Lights”) drawls. This Michael must be OK. God’s avenging legions have pointy teeth.
It’s all about fending off the forces of The Lord long enough to give humanity a little hope. It’s about the prophetic role of the pregnant waitress, Charlie (TV actress Adrianne Palicki). It’s about Tyrese Gibson swapping ammo clips and profanities with Quaid. And it’s about Black going all weepy in that annoying way of his.
The acting settles into “indifferent” and the feeble action beats are stretched so far apart that you almost forget the “Zulu” / “Assault on Precinct 13” / “From Dusk Till Dawn” template at work here. Visual-effects-guy-turned-director Scott Stewart gives this film few effects and no pace, losing himself in the personal crises of the various characters. The best jolt comes so early that the fact that no fresh jolt is attempted for the middle hour of the film makes it all the more boring.