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Original Title:
Shen xuan zhe

Taiwan 2007

Sci-Fi, Drama, Action

Shao Li-shiou

Juan Ching-Tien
Lun Cheng-Lung
Margaret Wang
Terri Kwan
Jay Shih
Lu Yi-Ching
Chen Bo-lin

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Brotherhood of Legio

aka Legion X

Story: For centuries certain people in this world are born under a special star and have a strong bond to geomancy which gives them extraordinary powers. This power can be of different nature, but since the day these humans are among us there is also a secret brotherhood of "Legio", which is the name for the members.
In today's Taipei a mysterious man (Jay Shih) tries to recruit four young people for this secret society. Ah Jian (Juan Ching-Tien) who can't walk after an accident, Xiao Lan (Margaret Wang) who even killed her family for the stranger, Zhong Dao who is looking for the killer of his little sister and the assistant professor Ren Fang (Lun Cheng-Lung) who is about to die from a brain tumor are the chosen ones. However, what plans has the brotherhood with them? When news anchorwoman Ya Zhu (Terri Kwan) is doing some investigation into that matter as her boyfriend Ren Fang tells her about his impending death and the sudden possibility of being healed, she uncovers a big secret.

Review: Jeez, you really don't have an easy job as a film critic. How often do you die the death of some kind of martyr as you are sacrificing yourself to save others from harm... That's the way I felt when watching "Brotherhood of Legio". It's an imposition what sci-fi crap in the shape of an X-Men copy for the poor is thrown in front of the viewers here. The TV show "Heroes" will also have done its fair share why the producers did spend money on this flick despite a script that is completely ill-conceived and full of plotholes. The confuse mix of superhero action whereas there actually isn't any action to be found anywhere and drama that is carried by apparently non-professional actors is a true trial of patience which in the end will steal you 90 minutes of your life. There ísn't anything more to know about this, so if you don't want to waste another few minutes of your life in reading this review you are free to click somewhere else. I for my part will faithfully do my job and use the space I have to continue my beefing...

Somewhere I read that the story of the film is quite good. Well maybe, that is if you like amateurish screenplays that seem to have been knocked together by a group of high school students. Actually, any at least a bit successful script writer would come up with something better in his toilet break! The story around a secret brotherhood that wants to achieve world domination by getting a certain item into their possession surely isn't original, just as little as the fact that there naturally is an opposing fraction in the brotherhood as well. The only thing that you can give the movie some credit for is that the actual protagonists prove to be recruits of the evil fraction of the brotherhood and therefore are standing on the kind of side that you seldomly get to see being in a movie's focus. Therefore, the film lacks a real hero. In the end, there is someone who faces the kids but that character is introduced way too late.

Of course it just could have been the appeal of the movie that there are anti-heroes in the center of the story but for that some kind of character drawing should have been done in the first place. In fact, you have to get the feeling that there was enough room at disposal for every one of the characters and there are even numerous drama elements to be found that could have deepened the three-dimensionality of the characters. However, the dialogues are so uninspired and at times simply badly written to such a degree that you can't speak of an emotional involvement of the viewer in any way. Even worse than that is that the characters are played in such a bored and amateurish fashion that we often think we are attending the rehearsal of a second-rate school theater performance. That's often awkward for the audience and never lets us tear down the wall between movie and reality.

The word "amateurish" is, as the attentive reader might have noticed, used in an excessive fashion but appropriately. Therefore, I also don't need to look for another word when it comes to the directing, I wouldn't have come up with anything more fitting, anyway. The camera work is oftentimes so haphazard or simply planned at the scene of shooting that you can actually imagine the student working with a shaky camera. That's a devastating composition for the movie: amateurish script, acting and camera work. As we are desperately searching for a light at the end of the tunnel we can find it in the already mentioned grey zone of good and evil and some nice special effects, especially when it comes to fire. The showdown is also a highlight in this respect and almost manages to succeed in what the rest of the movie doesn't: entertain. However, on the other hand it also has to be pointed out that there are some really badly done animations, too, as for example the computer animation of the secret brotherhood members whose faces were animated with the technical means of "The Lawnmover Man" and this movie is almost 20 years old...

As desperate as we are we are even thankful for every minute we get to see evil Xiao Lan showing a lot of skin or being dressed in a school uniform. But to be honest, you can see this at other places, too, and this by no means should actually raise a movie's quality. Since that is the case, though, it hopefully gives you an impression how bad "Brotherhood of Legio" is.
Irritating and at times even annoying is the soundtrack which often would have been more fitting for a horror flick. But what is this movie anyway? Surely no action film, those who hope to see a lot of superhero powers will be disappointed and the drama isn't carried by anything. Actually it is an insolence to relate this movie to "X-Men" in whatever way. Which once again brings us to the question why of all films it's such as these that are distributed on the international market. Do we westerners really have such bad taste?

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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