Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucy: A Review


Lucy is silly, sometimes flat-out laughable, but by goodness is it never dull.  Did I enjoy it?  If I didn't think much on it.  Is it a good film? 


Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a party girl in Taiwan who is pushed by her latest one-night (or one-week) stand, Richard (Pilou Asbaek) into delivering a package to a mysterious Mr. Jang (Min-Sik Choi).  Richard is immediately killed, and Lucy is forced into being a drug mule, who along with three other unwilling mules, has CPH4, a new drug, inserted into their bodies to smuggle to Europe.  One hitch in the plan, though.  A thug who wanted to rape Lucy instead beat her, breaking the package inside her and releasing it into her bloodstream.  As a result, the CPH4 is now making her use more than the 10% of the brain people use (which is an urban myth, but go along with it).  As her mental powers increase, she becomes more and more powerful, having the ability to control objects mutant-like, even the ability to change her physical appearance a la Mystique.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is lecturing about the possibilities of expanding mind power to use more and more of our brains.  What would happen if a person reached full 100% mental capacity?  He admits he has no idea.  Lucy, using her growing powers, manages to manipulate electronics from Taiwan to Paris and tells Professor Norman she's heading to Paris for his help.  She also contacts French detective Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), telling him who the other mules are and to capture them so he can give her the CPH4 they're carrying. 

The Taiwanese mobsters are not pleased by all this, so now they race to Paris, where the mules have been brought together after two arrive in Berlin and Rome to recapture the mules and take the drugs from them.  In almost every turn, Lucy, along with a slightly befuddled Del Rio, stop them through remarkably supernatural means.  It ends with Lucy going to full 100%, which if I understand makes her almost God-like, being able to travel through all time and space, even pausing to meet "Lucy", the first human.

As Lucy goes on, it does become more and more outlandish.   It isn't helped by director/writer Luc Besson's somewhat heavy-handed style (as Lucy is about to be taken, the scene is intercut with footage of cheetahs hunting down gazelles).  Why exactly he opted to put in all these visual metaphors instead of trusting we would 'get it' is beyond me.

Other parts, such as having Mozart's Requiem play as Lucy, in full bad-ass mode, is about to take down the Taiwanese thugs who put the drug in her, might be playing to Besson's strengths in the visuals department, but it does become more bizarre (apparently, the more brainpower one has, the greater physical abilities you have, like Lucy being able to perform a Vulcan mind-meld to find out who the other mules are). 

Still, on the whole, while Lucy is silly, it is by no means terrible.  It helps to have someone like Johansson (who is now a full-on star thanks to this of all things) anchor the project.  She is purposefully robotic as she gains more and more mutant-like powers (she can alter her appearance!  she can levitate thugs!).  At a certain point, while she is sipping champagne, she sees that she is physically deteriorating.  While this plot point isn't followed through (how she got out of this is pretty much left to the imagination), her panic makes the scene appear as real as it possibly can be.

As for everyone else, they pretty much are there for either information-dumping (Freeman) or as some sort of thwarted love interest (Waked, who is obviously Arab but is made into this bizarre Franco-Spanish mix of "Pierre Del Rio").  The movie even has Lucy comment on this when she kisses Del Rio.  When asked why, she says it's to remind her of humanity, or something like that.

There are a few good things in Lucy.  Johansson takes all this seriously, which at least adds some kind of realism to all this nonsense, and some of the visuals are intriguing (though I confess to laughing out loud when the CPH4 is entering her bloodstream).  It's a strange irony that while we are asked to take this seriously, as some sort of meditation on the power of the human mind, it soon slips into more and more ridiculousness. 

Still, if one goes into all this with a certain sense of humor and can laugh not mean-spiritedly so, one can love Lucy.

She was funnier...


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