Review by Sean Boelman
A new medieval thriller with Mickey Rourke in the top-billed spot, The Legion plays out like a much less innovative (and ultimately less interesting) version of the similarly-themed 1917. Despite decent production design and performances, the story here is too minimalistic and lacking in emotion to have the same success as its more impactful cousin.
The film follows a half-Roman soldier who is sent to deliver a call for help when half of the Roman army is trapped in the mountains of Armenia and surrounded by enemy patrols. Of course, as one expects, the soldier encounters difficulties along his journey, from inhospitable conditions to hostile combatants, and this provides a majority of the movie’s conflict.
This film will almost certainly suffer from being released in such close proximity with another more acclaimed movie with a similar plot. Even though there’s almost always something “action-like” happening, whether it be fighting or simply the protagonist running, none of these scenes are ever exhilarating.
The battle sequences in the film are certainly very lackluster. Obviously, the movie isn’t too occupied with having too grand of a scale, but there’s a way to make even battles between two or three people feel cinematic. The hectic editing and annoyingly shaky cinematography simply don’t cut it in terms of exciting action.
Additionally, the characters in the film aren’t particularly well-written. The main theme of the movie involves valor and heroism, the protagonist risking life and limb to save his fellow soldiers even if he doesn’t entirely agree with the cause. It’s a cheesy and safe way to tell this story when the film easily could have had more of a political edge to it.
And even though Mickey Rourke and Bai Ling are the two actors listed on the poster, they are mostly relegated to cutaways, a serious misuse of their talent. Instead, it is the mostly very charming Lee Partridge who plays the lead. It’s a shame he isn’t getting more of the credit, because he’s the one holding this movie together.
On a technical level, the film is better than expected for what the filmmakers had at their disposal. Apart from the aforementioned fight sequences, the look of the movie is mostly fine. The costuming and production design do a sufficient job of periodization. For his directorial debut on a B-movie period piece, José Magán’s work isn’t too shabby.
The Legion is certainly inferior to a lot of the other action offerings audiences have at their disposal right now, but it’s certainly watchable. It’s just that, with relatively charming stars, this should have at least been a lot more fun than it was.
The Legion hits VOD on May 8.