With a title spouting unearned bragging rights and a soapy script less suited to movie theaters than a small screen afterschool special, Legendary is anything but. And though likely seeking to ride in on the coattails of the reigning cinematic champ, The Wrestler, Legendary is more pity party than provocative pummel pageant.
Not that John Cena doesn’t radiate subdued menace and cool daring on screen. The problem is that he’s intended as strictly dramatic wallpaper to this coming of age story derivative of countless other sports tales, though upstaging the main action whenever he turns up from the shadows on screen.
World heavyweight champion and WWE fixture John Cena is Mike Chetley, a brooding blue collar underachiever long out of touch with and estranged from his family since the death of his father in which he feels implicated. Before leaving his Oklahoma town, coulda been a contender Mike was that legendary high school wrestling star referred to in the title.
When Mike’s skinny geek fifteen year old brother Cal (Devon Traye) – who’d rather be hanging at the river with a talky fellow fishing enthusiast (Danny Glover) who may or may not be a figment of his imagination – becomes the target of school bullies, the teen outcast signs up to train for the wrestling team. Presumably to ward off his tormentors, while at the same time aspiring to his older sibling’s extra-curricular star status.
Though disapproving scorn from his fretful mother (Patricia Clarkson) who continues to harbor assorted resentments against Mike, leads Cal to sneak around her to wrestling practice, when not leaving town under the radar to pester his less than enthused brother for trade secret training tips. Which include staring down your opponents with killer eyes whenever possible, and parading around nude prior to practice for further psychological intimidation, who knew.
An apparent venture in multi-tasking across the board, Legendary stars a pro wrestler (Cena) portraying a failed wrestler, and is scripted by a writer (John Posey) casting himself as the high school wrestling coach. And Legendary director Mel Damski, better known for small screen fare (Psych, Picket Fences, The Practice), was an all-Nassau County, Long Island football and baseball selection and a former sports writer for Newsday, and maybe should have stuck to what he knows best.
A more suds than steroids series of sports challenges, Legendary shoots the sweaty action on the mats stylistically as if homoerotic groping trysts instead. While the outcome of this athletic screen contest comes off with about as much unpredictability as a fixed fight.
Samuel Goldwyn Film
2 [out of 4] stars