Nothing short of Legendary
It’s that time of year when we reflect on all of the things we are most thankful for. In addition to giving thanks for a wonderful family and great friends, I am also grateful that I am able to review one classic film after another, the latest being the recently released Legendary.
Legendary is the latest offering from WWE Studios, and stars the company’s biggest star, John Cena. Instead of focusing on the theatrical style of wrestling that the WWE has presented to its fans for the last 50 years, Legendary showcases the sport of amateur wrestling.
Amateur wrestling bears some resemblance to the WWE style of combat, except its contests typically do not contain any of the following:
1. People being hit in the head with steel chairs.
2. Scantily clad women distracting referees while their boyfriends perform underhanded deeds to gain a tainted victory.
3. Dwarves being pushed around in wheelbarrows.
In short, amateur wrestling is boring. Luckily, a great script and a winning performance from John Cena manage to breathe life into this topic.
Legendary tells the tale of Cal Chetley, a shy teenager whose family life is in shambles. His father passed away when he was very young, and he hasn’t seen his older brother Mike (Cena) in nearly 10 years. It has been just Cal and his mom for a long time, but he is looking for more, and turns to his high school wrestling team to get it.
Cal’s father was an amateur wrestling standout, as was his older brother Mike. So Cal joins the wrestling team, and tries to bring his estranged brother back not only to coach him, but also to make their family complete once again. This is easier said than done, as there is tension between Mike and his mother, both of whom at least partially blame Mike for the death of his father.
Unlike previous WWE films that have been heavily reliant on action sequences, this is a much quieter film with some real family drama, and a few stellar performances. The participation of well known actors Danny Glover and Patricia Clarkson certainly grant the film some respectability from those who would easily dismiss it due to the WWE connection.
In a small role, Danny Glover, best known for his work in the Lethal Weapon series, is remarkable. It is funny that in the same year his Lethal Weapon co-star Mel Gibson has seemingly flushed his career down the toilet, that Glover’s career has reached a new high point. Danny, you are most certainly not getting too old for this shit.
Patricia Clarkson is merely average in the film as Mike and Cal’s mother. Clarkson has a pretty impressive resume I suppose, with roles in films such as Shutter Island, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Lars and the Real Girl. She was even nominated for an Academy Award for her work in the film Pieces of April. However, it is clear that she is intimidated in the scenes she shares with Cena. Even if she had won the Oscar, it could not compare to Cena’s resume of nine WWE titles. Deep down she knows it, and it showed.
While the picture focuses mostly on the character of Cal Chetley, Cena steals the show as older brother Mike. This is a troubled character, one who has spent some time in the slammer and enjoys a few too many adult beverages from time to time. Cena hits a homerun (or a piledriver) and it is hard to believe this is only his third starring role. He reminds me of a young Robert De Niro mixed with a young Hulk Hogan.
Legendary was a bit of a unique experiment. In order to cut down on the cost of having to market the film twice, it was released in a small number of theatres for only two weeks, and then immediately put out on home video. This is likely a model that many studios will follow, and within five years I predict we will be able to download movies to our iPads while they are still in the casting process. But until that day, I suggest you head out Walmart and grab yourself a copy of Legendary. I guarantee it will keep you pinned down on your sofa from start to finish.