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A book-smart teenager joins his school's wrestling team as a way to reunite his surviving family members, who split apart after the death of his father, a college wrestling legend, 10 years ago.
For more about Legendary and the Legendary Blu-ray release, see Legendary Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 26, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Cena, Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover
Director: Mel Damski
» See full cast & crew
Legendary Blu-ray Review
Patricia Clarkson and Devon Graye are exceptional in this family drama about a young wrestler.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 26, 2011
My wife and I have been joking recently that we're certain we have the makings of one of those Lifetime "switched at birth" movies. Our eldest son, who's now in high school, has joined his wrestling team and is good enough that, though still a freshman, he has been taking on some varsity matches in his weight class. We find this completely astounding for the simple reason that neither my wife nor I have what one would call an overabundance of athletic ability. Or even an abundance, for that matter. I first knew something was wrong when my son, still then in middle school, informed me that Physical Education was his favorite subject. Obviously either this was not a child of mine, or at the very least some long recessive gene had finally gone mutant in this new generation. Wrestling has actually turned out to be a surprisingly good thing for my kid at least, but I well understood the worry about injury that the Patricia Clarkson character has for her son in the wrestling drama Legendary. This 2010 film, which barely received a theatrical release, is hackneyed at times, but it actually manages to pack a bit of an emotional wallop along the way, due largely to Clarkson's pitch perfect portrayal of a woman at the head of a family in trauma after the death of her husband. Legendary in fact at times feels like a Lifetime film itself, with a sort of lo-fi ambience and a dearth of A-list stars, despite the always wonderful Clarkson. Unlike some "come from behind" underdog sports films, though, Legendary doesn't hang all its filmic chips in the athletic arena, and in fact derives most of its drama from the unfolding family relationships between Clarkson as widow Sharon Chetley, who is mothering a precocious high schooler Cal (Devon Graye) while maintaining an initially unexplained distance from her first born, Cal's older brother and former wrestling champ Mike (John Cena in his first non-action role).
Have there ever been stranger producing bedfellows than Samuel Goldwyn and WWE? If so, I certainly can't think of them. Goldwyn, long the studio of the classy art film, is known for intimate character dramas with fine production values. WWE is known for—well, what? Smackdown? Obviously WWE has larger film ambitions, and though Cena's participation here is probably due mostly if not completely to WWE's involvement, the fact that WWE would want to branch out from its usual fare into more family friendly territory is at the very least interesting. Legendary certainly owes more to its Goldwyn pedigree than its WWE one, at least in terms of feel, if not totally in terms of content. While there are a few fleeting moments where Cena bursts into, well, smackdown mode, they ostensibly play a part in the larger family drama that is at the core of the film.
Devon Graye, who may be most familiar to viewers from his turn as the teenage Dexter in Dexter, is a bookish, sweet nerd Cal, who is haunted by never having known his late father, an All State wresting champ from the late 1970's. That wrestling gene was passed full on to Cal's older brother, Mike (Cena), who is noticeably absent from the film's opening moments. Slowly (too slowly, some would argue) the film reveals a long decade of torment and recrimination based around the death of the boys' father. Sharon is estranged from Mike for perhaps selfish reasons, and Cal's seemingly strange decision to take up wrestling himself, when he's not especially suited for it, brings to a head all sorts of buried emotions.
Is there a finer actress in film today than Patricia Clarkson? Sadly almost always relegated to supporting roles, she brings an ineffable grace and presence to virtually every part she plays. She's been lauded with multiple Emmys (for Six Feet Under) and (so far) one Oscar nod (for Pieces of April), but she really deserves more of a chance to shine in leading roles than she's typically given. Legendary may not be Academy Awards material on any level, but it at least provides Clarkson the opportunity to run the gamut of emotions, from down home, sweet natured Mother to haunted widow dealing with years of grief and repressed emotion. Her work here is natural, wonderfully forceful and very well modulated, keeping the film from being overly melodramatic at a couple of key plot points.
Graye is also exceptional in what is really a leading role. Able to convey both vulnerability and intense inner strength, he makes Cal instantly lovable, and it's due to his doleful eyes lit with a steely gaze that the film derives a lot of its emotional power. Is there an actor underneath the bounteous muscles of John Cena? It's hard to say, though in Legendary he doesn't have just his bulk on which to rely. Since Mike is such an emotionally shut down character, though, Cena also doesn't have much to do, acting wise. Danny Glover provides some patented sweetness and quiet gravitas in what amounts to a cameo with a semi-surprise twist toward the end of the film. Madeleine Martin is delightful as outcast Luli, a young girl looking for attention in all the wrong ways who develops a crush on Cal. That's Legendary's screenwriter John Posey as Coach Tennant, and John's son Tyler as Cal's nemesis Billy.<
Legendary tries a bit too hard at times, and walks a fine line between the lachrymose and the merely heroic. But there's really some fine work by the performers here, and that gives the film a wrestling leg up on others of the same ilk. You may have seen a lot of this before, but Legendary manages to cast it in a slightly new framework.
Legendary Blu-ray, Video Quality
Legendary has a sort of upper echelon tv-movie look to its AVC encoded 1080p image in 1.85:1. While no one would mistake this for a reference quality Blu-ray, the image here is decently sharp and well defined, with good color and saturation, good to excellent contrast, and very good and stable black levels. The film offers the bleak countryside of Oklahoma, so the location shots are not bursting with a broad palette. Instead we're treated to mostly grays and browns. On the wrestling mat we get bursts of bright colors with the various singlets the wrestlers wear. Luli's costumes are also brilliantly colored and provide a wealth of detail. Flesh tones are excellent throughout the film, and grain looks natural without being overly pronounced in the many darker segments Legendary features.
Legendary Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Legendary's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is similarly workmanlike, although it does offer a wealth of source cues which spill through the surrounds quite invitingly. Immersion is best here in the wrestling segments, when the screams of the crowd zoom through the side and rear channels, providing a suitably authentic recreation of a high school gymnasium. The bulk of the film is quieter dialogue scenes, and in that regard Legendary's track does quite well, with clear and crisp placement and an excellent mix between the actors, sound effects and score.
Legendary Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Legendary offers quite a few supplements tucked into its singlet:
Legendary Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
You've probably seen a hundred underdog sports films, but Legendary has a couple of unexpected moves along the way. Clarkson and Graye are wonderful and give full blooded performances here, and the film, though hackneyed at times, manages to develop some emotional momentum that's surprisingly effective. For Clarkson alone, Legendary is Recommended.
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