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On Blu-ray/DVD/VOD: FORCE OF NATURE (2020) and THE LEGION (2020)

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FORCE OF NATURE
(US - 2020)


There'll no doubt be a knee-jerk, cancel-culture reaction among some to trash FORCE OF NATURE sight unseen just because they object to Mel Gibson being employed. But if you take the time to actually watch it, you'll find so many more valid reasons to hate it. An utterly, depressingly perfunctory Lionsgate/Grindstone DTV time-waster, FORCE OF NATURE is directed by Michael Polish who, with his twin brother Mark, formed the once-promising Polish Brothers team behind the 1999 cult indie hit TWIN FALLS IDAHO. That's a generation ago at this point, and after 2003's higher-profile NORTHFORK flopped, the brothers never really regained their momentum. Michael is flying solo here in hired-gun mode for this Puerto Rico-shot high-rise mayhem/disaster movie hybrid set during a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on San Juan (think THE RAID: REDEMPTION meets THE HURRICANE HEIST). Burned-out, suicidal cop Cardillo (Emile Hirsch) and rookie partner Pena (Stephanie Cayo) are sent to an apartment complex to force two stubborn residents to evacuate: aging German Bergkamp (Jorge Luis Ramos) and terminally ill retired cop Ray (Gibson), whose doctor daughter Troy (Kate Bosworth, Polish's wife) is desperately trying to get him to the hospital so he doesn't miss a dialysis treatment. Ray is a surly pain in the ass suffering from kidney and lung issues with some bonus colitis, and fears that if he goes in the hospital, he won't come out. But there's a bigger issue at hand: psycho criminal John the Baptist (David Zayas) and his crew are made aware of a Van Gogh painting worth $55 million that's in one of the units of the building, and with everyone presumably evacuated, all they need to do is go through each unit to find it. But they need to get rid of the unexpected witnesses, and thus begins a "survive the night" scenario as two separated groups--one with Cardillo, Troy, Bergkamp and tenant Griffin (Will Catlett) and the other Ray and Pena--are forced to take on a ruthless, trigger-happy John the Baptist as the hurricane rages around them.





This is serviceable B-movie material handled in the dumbest and least-inspired, DIPSHIT KEY LARGO way possible. Polish never really establishes the layout of the apartment complex, so it's hard to tell where anyone is in relation to others. Introduced taking an epic, gun-pointed-at-his-own-head Decompression Shower (© David James Keaton), Cardillo's baggage involves his accidentally shooting his ex-girlfriend and fellow cop back in NYC, which sent him on a downward spiral that landed him in San Juan, and somehow, the whole city knows about it ("How do you know about that?" he asks John the Baptist, who replies "I'm John the Baptist...I know everything!"). Griffin has a cop-hating black panther (!) locked up in a room in his apartment (!!), so you know there's no way that won't come into play at some point, and rest assured, Cory Miller's script makes it happen in the most idiotic way possible. Third-billed Gibson is on total Bruce Willis duty and really isn't in it all that much--in fact, Willis was set to play Ray until he backed out and Gibson replaced him. Imagine if you can an installment of Lionsgate/Grindstone's landmark "Bruce Willis Phones In His Performance From His Hotel Room" series that Willis deemed unworthy of his time. Cancellation-era Gibson has done some fine work in under-the-radar gems like BLOOD FATHER and DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE, but he's just phoning it in here, playing Ray as an older, near-death variation of the plays-by-his-own rules Riggs from LETHAL WEAPON. I can deal with Gibson being an asshole anger management case offscreen while still respecting his work onscreen. But he's gotta try harder than FORCE OF NATURE. (R, 91 mins)


THE LEGION
(US/Spain - 2020)


After a half-dozen production company logos, you're barely a minute into THE LEGION when you hear Oscar-nominated actor Mickey Rourke mispronounce "Caligula" as "Ca-lig-lee-uh" and you know you're in for something special. Rourke seems hellbent on squandering whatever reputation he has remaining with his one-day-on-the-set clockpunch of an appearance in this laughably cheap, incompetently-made melodrama set in 62 AD. As a disgruntled general named Corbulo, Rourke--with an eye patch, highlighted hair, Lee Press-On Nails, and enough mascara on his visible eye to make him the next face of L'Oreal (because he's worth it)--spends almost all of his screen time alone, against an obvious greenscreen, mumbling and ranting at a bust of Nero using curiously present-day vernacular, whether it's dropping F-bombs or complaining about a rival's "grubby little hands." Corbulo is peeved that Nero chose another general, Paetus (Joaquim de Almeida), to lead Roman troops into Parthia, where they've been surrounded on all sides by enemy forces and will likely die of starvation and exposure if they aren't killed first. Paetus and his adviser Marcus (Vladimir Kulich) decide to send soldier Noreno (Lee Partridge) on a foreboding mission across treacherous terrain to get to Corbulo and beg him to marshal his troops to rescue the Roman forces.





If that sounds a little like 1917 by way of ancient Rome, you're not far off, aside from the fact that THE LEGION makes Uwe Boll look like Cecil B. DeMille, is saddled with a pitifully low budget, and can almost muster a cast of tens despite having 41 credited producers. Most of the film is dedicated to Noreno running, running, and running some more, periodically stopping to battle a Parthian soldier he might encounter or rescue a young woman (Marta Castellvi) from being raped (she repays the favor by firing an arrow into the chest of a Parthian soldier who's attacking Noreno). He does some soul searching with an aging hermit named Saul (Bosco Hogan) and finally makes it to Corbulo's stronghold, where his arrival is announced and is met with Mickey Rourke mumbling, in the parlance of 62 AD, "A messenger? Where the fuck is he?" The big climax is a long, meandering discussion between Corbulo and his mistress Amiriah (Bai Ling), who has to talk him off the ledge and set him straight after the diva general refuses to help Paetus. Delivering performances that'll make you appreciate the dedication and pride that Steven Seagal takes in his craft, Rourke and Ling audibly flub lines and mispronounce words to the point that they might just be deliberately fucking with director Jose Magan, a veteran Spanish producer making his debut behind the camera (represented by the gaffe-afflicted credit "Directed Jose Magan"). Other than Xavier Gens' Lovecraftian COLD SKIN, Magan is hardly a producer of repute, having bankrolled the entirety of the unwatchable 2001-2006 output of Spanish non-auteur Maria Lidon, aka "Luna" (STRANDED, THE LIFE, MOSCOW ZERO). THE LEGION is bad enough that it almost feels like another craptacular Luna project, but Magan seems awfully proud of it: he's also credited with the story, producer, executive producer, line producer, casting director, post-production coordinator, and "financial services." So I guess there's only 38 producers if you count the three times Magan credits himself. (R, 96 mins)


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