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Legion -- Film Review

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Hollywood has been presenting so many visions of the apocalypse lately that you have to wonder whether the studio executives know something that we don't.

The latest example is "Legion," a ridiculous piece of hokum that is far more fun than it has a right to be. Although not exactly designed to appeal to religious folks -- for one thing, the villain is no less than God -- the film has enough entertaining action and sly humor to please its target audience.

Clearly, this doesn't include critics, who were not allowed to see the film until opening day.

The last time the Supreme Being got seriously pissed off at us, he sent a devastating flood. Now, apparently having watched too many George Romero movies in the interim, he has dispatched a legion of easily picked-off zombies, demonstrating a disturbing loss of efficiency.

Attempting to thwart his plans is a rogue angel, Michael (Paul Bettany), who has determined that mankind's sole hope for salvation is a new messiah, the unborn child of a pregnant and clearly not virginal waitress (Adrianne Palicki) at a remote roadside diner appropriately named Paradise Falls.

Huddled inside is the usual group of disparate types typically found in a disaster movie or Stephen King novel. They include the gruff cafe owner (Dennis Quaid), his mechanic son (Lucas Black), a no-nonsense cook (Charles S. Dutton), an upscale couple (Kate Walsh, Jon Tenney) whose car has broken down, their rebellious teen daughter (Willa Holland) and a mysterious, pistol-packing stranger (Tyrese Gibson).

The first indication that something is amiss comes in the form of an initially sweet old lady who quickly transforms into a throat-chomping, spider-walking monster. This leads to periodic attacks by hordes of similarly possessed figures, including an ice cream-truck driver with elongated limbs and a little boy in need of an exorcist.

Eventually, it leads to a showdown between Michael and the angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand), the latter wielding an impressive air of metallic wings that serve equally well as bullet deflectors and lethal daggers.

As the above description demonstrates, the goings-on in "Legion" are seriously silly (not to mention more than a little derivative of endless movies, especially the "Terminator" series), but director Scott Stewart has provided enough stylish finesse to make the proceedings a real hoot. He also has assembled an atypically talented cast for this sort of thing, with Bettany a particularly powerful presence as the butt-kicking angel.

Opened: Friday, Jan. 22 (Screen Gems)