TRIBECA 2010: LEGACY Review

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor
[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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