TRIBECA 2010: LEGACY Review

U.S. Editor; Los Angeles, California (@benumstead)
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TRIBECA 2010: LEGACY Review
[Once again, thanks goes to Aaron Krasnov for the review.]

When I initially heard Idris Elba would be headlining a cryptic thriller I became eager to see what he could do in a complex dramatic role. The allure of Legacy is strong: a great poster, a well composed trailer and Idris Elba, who has slowly been making a name for himself in highly entertaining fashion, the man has charisma. 

A few days prior to the US premier a NY Times article appeared on Elba, describing his aspirations and containing a small bit about Legacy"'We couldn't have made the movie this way without him,' said the film's writer and director, Thomas Ikimi. 'I wrote the script to make it for $20,000 in a hotel room. All the actors were friends of mine.' When Mr. Elba signed on to star and be executive producer, Mr. Ikimi continued, 'the movie ended up a lot bigger than I ever expected it to be.' Mr. Elba's reputation drew both other actors (including his 'Wire' cast mate Clarke Peters) and investors, leading to an eventual shooting budget of half a million dollars.'" 

The above is how I went into the film, it's time to watch Idris Elba knock this out of the park, time to watch him become the star he speaks of being in the NY Times article.

NOPE

Legacy is essentially a one man show, each of the supporting characters serving as an emotional catalyst for Elba's performance. A performance that asks Elba to play someone who is disassociated with reality, an ex-soldier with varying degrees of psychosis the audience must decipher. Certainly not the easiest of roles, but one Elba was confident enough in to become executive producer. 

I have been skirting around talking about the film for a few paragraphs now as I feel out the way to tackle it. The easiest way is to say the film is a failure on nearly all accounts, I have thought back through it a number of times and can not seem to pull out anything truly redemptive. Clarke Peters turns in a decent few minutes of screen time and Eamonn Walker turns in the best performance of the film, though not a huge departure from his previous work. 

Meat and potatoes time, Idris Elba is awful. I can't tell if Elba isn't trying, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt as he produced the film. Maybe he didn't have enough time to research or work with a vocal coach, maybe this kind of acting just isn't his thing; regardless it's not pretty. The worst of which comes when Elba uses an unconvincing, homogenized American accent as he unhurriedly narrates through his experiences in the special forces while seated in front of a camcorder, video diary style. These scenes are the audiences most intimate glimpses into the character and Elba's biggest failing. Listening to Elba stiltedly mutter and stumble through these introspective moments I found myself completely at a loss. The film totally shuts down, any intensity and mutual paranoia is destroyed.

I have not given up on Elba as an actor, he is great when playing the quick witted action guy and the composed educated gangster, dramaturgy is not his shtick as Legacy makes clear.

There are better soldier with psychosis films, Legacy is nothing new and when propped up against Dead Presidents  or Jacob's Ladder an utter failure. The twists are transparent and the dialog abrasive, it's just not fun to watch
 

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More about Legacy

HaveMay 5, 2010 12:46 PM

Hey man, just read your review and I am not sure what movie you actually saw. I saw this a few months back and Idris was one of the best things about it. To say he was...awful? Maybe it's a thing of taste or something or maybe you did not get what he was trying to do with the role. I mean, Megan Fox is...AWFUL, awful is a REALLY strong word.
I thought the film was tight but again, it's how I saw it. I just really don't get how the film failed on every level? Just don't get that call...

NEWAGEMay 5, 2010 1:01 PM

yikes, this was a bit harsh. By all accounts, the one thing that is not in doubt is that Idris Elba turned in a stellar performance in this film. This review is so incongruous to most of the comments online from those who have seen it, I am not sure what to think. Respected commentaries are saying he was excellent. So far this is one of only two bad reviews, and viewers from Tribeca seem to be lauding what was accomplished. Confused. Is this the same movie the other reviewers and bloggers are talking about!?!?

hype.jonesMay 5, 2010 1:17 PM

I saw the film and I strongly agree with this review. I think it's just an unfortunate case of good intentions and very bad execution (across the board).

Water BaboonMay 5, 2010 1:42 PM

I'm always wary of hyperbolic, short little reviews like this. "a failure on nearly all accounts", (nothing) truly redemptive (within the film). It is one thing to say the movie at least tried and failed, in either some respects or many, but to simply announce that the film was a complete failure is either lazy or stupid, either in reviewing the film or watching it, or both.

What I really don't understand is, aside from the reviewer's obvious disgust over Idris's accent (which, in fact, is not different at all from his accent in The Wire), what was so wrong with the film? I get no sense of what failed so dramatically. Was the reviewer just eager to get his review posted here and he wrote up this short little diatribe so he could be first?

After reading so many very positive reviews elsewhere, I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that this reviewer's expectations were way out of whack (and since they weren't fulfilled the film gets a negative review), or that he had some other personal issues with the film that had nothing to do with it's overall quality.

NEWAGEMay 5, 2010 2:31 PM

It's a tiny sub million dollar indie film set in a single room. He compares it to movies costing millions and millions of dollars set across a vast cityscape, and uses that as a determinant for its failure. I'd say his expectations were out of whack too.

AlephMay 5, 2010 2:36 PM

It's the Christian Bale syndrome. Once his British nationality was made public knowledge, suddenly people are saying his accent is horrible when prior to that people were surprised to find out he's British (just like Elba).

Aaron KrasnovMay 5, 2010 3:34 PM

Performance is subjective, Elba's simply did not work for me. I should have clarified in the review that his accent isn't poorly delivered, it is not fitting of character.

As the film has a bit of a labyrinthine structure I chose to avoid spoilers and not discuss it. The comparisons to Dead Presidents and Jacob's Ladder are thematic, Legacy deals with the same issues in a less competent manner.

If you are a fan of Elba please see the film and judge for yourself.

Water BaboonMay 5, 2010 3:53 PM

Why don't you revise your review then? At least in your comment above you explained yourself better than the hyperbolic "Idris Elba is awful" in the review. I have a hard time believing that his choice of delivery took you so out of the film. I had no problem with it because it fit his depressed, manic, world-weary state.

Also along those same lines, describing it above as less competent than Dead Presidents and Jacob's Ladder is not the same as "a failure on all accounts", as you described it in the review. It is rare to see any film that is a complete failure, and this film was far, far from that. It may not have been your type of film, which is fine to admit, but to declare it as some sort of utter mess just isn't being fair or honest to the film the rest of us saw.

AmalMay 5, 2010 8:23 PM

Mr. Aaron Krasnov, I respect that you personally did not enjoy this film and as we are all fans of film, each of us are entitled to our opinions.

But I must say that my opinion of your critique is that it is both lazy and irresponsible.

"I have been skirting around talking about the film for a few paragraphs now as I feel out the way to tackle it. The easiest way is to say the film is a failure on nearly all accounts...". No this is the laziest way and frankly ridiculous. Are you seriously trying to tell people who would be interested in seeing this film in order to form their own opinion that it is a failure in NEARLY ALL accounts?? So casting, directing, acting, story, cinematography, score??? Nearly all failures?? The film certainly may not be to everyone's taste but to describe it in such a devastating way is VERY irresponsible. You might as well say that the judges and panel that painstakingly scrutinise all film entries to ensure that their festivals show only the most intriguing and worthy new and independent films don't know what they are talking about, otherwise why did they accept this film? Why did Glasgow film festival decide to have it as the closing gala? Why have another prestigious European film festival decided to show it this summer? Certainly the film succeeds at the very levels you claim it fails at...and this is not just my opinion but the opinions of the film review panels at these prestigious festivals.

For anyone reading the review on this page and the subsequent comments, I urge you to see this film for yourself and formulate your own opinion...you owe it to yourself as a true fan of film.

hype.jonesMay 5, 2010 9:27 PM

Reviews are reviews, folks. They're subjective. Some are positive, some are negative. C'est la vie.

Personally, I completely agree with the reviewer. I applaud the filmmakers for getting the film made (no easy task), but that's about all there is to applaud here.

Water BaboonMay 5, 2010 11:38 PM

I have no problem with anyone giving the film a negative review; I wouldn't deny anyone their right to have their own opinion. But anyone calling this film an utter disaster either didn't get the film at all or is simply being extremely lazy in their reviewing, especially after giving hardly any other explanation as to what was either lacking or what was apparently so grossly ineffective.

There is quite a lot to praise in this film and there is a lot of promise in the director (this being only his second film). I have a feeling this small film could lead to bigger and better things for him.