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Legendary is a 2010 drama film directed by Mel Damski. The film stars Devon Graye as a high school wrestler, in a cast that features John Cena, Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover, Madeleine Martin, and Tyler Posey. The film was released on September 10, 2010. After being bullied, book-smart (but not street-wise) teenager Cal Chetley (Devon Graye), joins his Oklahoma high school's wrestling team, seeing it also as a way to reunite with his estranged brother, Mike (John Cena). His mother, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), is not initially supportive of Cal's decision, especially when she discovers that Mike is secretly coaching Cal after she gets a call from Mike Chetleys jail cell. She has been away and without contact of her older son, Mike, for over 10 years, but copes and watches yet another family male become legendary. WWE Studios produced the film alongside Samuel Goldwyn Films. Filming took place at Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School in Kenner, Louisiana in December 2009. Although no official soundtrack was released, the following songs appeared in the movie: The orchestral score, written and composed by James A Johnston, is available on iTunes.
Cena plays Mike Chetley, a collegiate wrestling hero who has fallen from grace since his father's death. He has spent the last eight years separated from his family, living in a trailer with trashy broads and forgetting who he once was. When his gangly little brother Cal (Devon Graye, Dexter) decides to join the high-school wrestling team, Mike is yanked from the cliched shadows to teach the kid a few moves. It's a clandestine training program, hidden from their devoted, heartbroken mother (Patricia Clarkson, the film's life and savior).
Of course, Legendary starts out like a TV tearjerker. Cal is bullied, runs home to look at old newspaper clippings about his Dad (boo hoo), and talks with his single mom. But director Mel Damski -- a TV veteran currently directing Psych -- pulls it together after the ham-handed intro, easing up on the relentless predictability. You can still guess where John Posey's script is going, but there's a much lighter touch.
And that makes Legendary a pretty likable movie, despite early cues to the contrary. Damski gets the film into a comfortable groove by making sure it doesn't aspire to be more than it is: your basic family drama. Too often, filmmakers shoot for more than their ideas are worth, ending up with a self-involved, overconfident work. (Or a massive ego-driven undertaking like Avatar). Posey and Damski stay true to their movie's Southern roots, keeping a nice, even pace and a tell-it-like-it-is attitude.
So Legendary, with John Cena front-and-center in its marketing, becomes an acting-driven piece. Go figure. The wonderful Clarkson is as smart and sympathetic as ever, getting plenty of room to mix light Southern sass and heavy mother-hen fears. As a tribute to her talents, she even makes Cena look like a somewhat practiced actor in their few scenes together -- how smart of Damski to have the veteran actress run the show. For his part, Cena understands the gravity of his role even if he's not skilled at how to express it. Sometimes, an angled brow and firm grimace can say enough. Especially when you look like you could kill a human with your thumbs.
Like the film itself, Graye takes a little while to get comfortable (it feels as if the earliest scenes were shot first). A sequence in which he studies his wrestling peers from the bleachers asks for a bit of intensity; instead of looking engrossed in the drills and moves, Graye appears downright shocked that his friends even have moving limbs. But the young actor takes it down a notch and prevails, despite his distracting hair dye job.
Expecting a Rocky-like ending? Or a grand return from the once-conquering hero? There's a satisfaction in knowing neither is a guarantee in Posey's screenplay. As for John Cena becoming a "dramatic" actor, well, wrestling fans will just have to grapple with that idea. Dwayne Johnson he ain't, but Cena seems competent enough to be back. In a very carefully chosen WWE film, of course.