Since gaining wide-spread acclaim for his role as “Stringer” Bell on HBO’s The Wire, British actor Idris Elba has quickly established himself as fantastic actor. Thus far, he has largely taken supporting roles, be it as Mumbles in Rocknrolla, Tango in American Gangster or, most recently Roque in The Losers. But with the one-man show he puts on in Thomas Ikimi’s Legacy it is abundantly clear how scary talented the man really is.
Malcolm Gray (Elba) is a former black ops officer who is living in a run down Brooklyn apartment. Years earlier, while hunting down an elusive arms and weapons dealer, a mission went horribly wrong that led to Gray being captured and tortured. In his work he has been responsible for some horrible crimes under his unit, and now, back after being away for so long, he is ready to expose the man that has been pulling the strings: a New York senator who happens to be his brother (Eamonn Walker).
Sporting scars all over his body, Gray is not only physically scarred but also entirely mentally unstable, which Elba plays entirely too well. There is a constant look of both fear and anger behind his eyes, haunted by the events that have made up his service in the armed forces, and oh what memories he has. Essentially an assassin, Malcolm is a pure blood killer who exhibited no moral compass in his work. He twitches as the images of bloodied corpses are flash across the scene, sometimes taking it out on his own body when he loses control. Even the smallest disturbance is enough to send him into hysterics, and Elba makes you believe that it is not his character’s past experiences that are destroying him, but rather his own.
The second feature written and directed by Ikimi, the film is fractured to match the main character’s mental state, never letting you know exactly what is real or simple a manifestation of Gray’s serious post-traumatic stress disorder. His direction pulls no punches, letting the audience watch the torture scenes and feel the intense pain of Gray, but it in no way feels gratuitous or over done. The film was clearly made on a limited budget (this is Tribeca after all), but the restriction has almost the entire film take place in the small Brooklyn apartment, making viewers feel as though they are trapped in a prison with the former soldier.
An immensely powerful film driven by Elba’s incredible performance, the film not only stands as a solitary story but also what can happen to a person when a horrific past catches up. The film’s tension is at an almost constant high, something as simple as a ringing telephone left unanswered inexplicably made my blood pressure rise. Elba has already cemented himself as a terrific actor, but this is truly the kind of role that can make him a star.
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