Synopsis: Luc Besson directs Scarlett Johansson in Lucy, an action-thriller that tracks a woman accidentally caught in a dark deal who turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.
Release Date: July 25, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
One of the fun facts that students learn in science class is that humans only use 10% of their brains. It’s a lesson that inevitably results in someone asking what would happen if people somehow learned how to tap into that unutilized section of grey matter. That is the question that Lucy tries to answer.
Lucy stars Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin) as the titular Lucy, an American student in Taiwan who ends up on the wrong end of a drug deal. A ruthless thug named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi from Oldboy and I Saw the Devil) kidnaps her and sews a packet of drugs into her abdomen, forcing her to smuggle the contraband out of the country with a group of his drug mules. While carrying the drugs, she is assaulted and kicked in the stomach, and the bag breaks. The drug turns out to be a substance called CPH4 which is usually transferred, in small doses, from mothers to their unborn children to help their brains develop quickly. The amount that Lucy absorbs into her bloodstream unlocks powers within her that make her almost superhuman, with the ability to psychically control just about everything around her. With the help of a neuroscientist named Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman from Se7en) and a policeman named Del Rio (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen‘s Amr Waked), Lucy desperately wants to track down the CPH4 from the other mules, but Mr. Jang’s men are looking for it as well…and looking for her, too.
Watching Lucy is an interesting ride. The first act is absolutely enthralling, an amazing blend of action and suspense that perfectly sets up the rest of the film. Then, something changes. When Lucy starts to figure out what’s happening to her, the film becomes more of a superhero film than a sci-fi picture, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that Lucy gets so hokey at times that it takes the viewer out of the film. The funny thing is that, just when something silly happens, it is followed by something totally badass, and the viewer is back into the movie. One minute, there will be a corny scene with robotic performances from the actors, and the next will follow it up with a seat-shaking action scene. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride, but not really in the narrative sense; the film constantly loses and gains the suspension of disbelief that is necessary for a science fiction movie of its type to be effective.
Both written and directed by Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element), Lucy is a tale of two movies. Besson’s direction is solid; all of the cinematic elements come together into a very well-made film. Besson’s script, on the other hand, is a different story. It’s got a remarkable premise, and starts off with a bang, but fizzles out pretty quickly. There’s plenty of conflict, but the tension doesn’t seem to have much point. It’s never made clear as to who the heroes and villains are, so the audience just ends up along for the ride. The storyline never has a clear direction either, and Lucy herself never seems to have a real motivation. The dialogue, some of which is downright embarrassing, is full of faux-philosophy and intellectual babble that tries unsuccessfully to fill in the holes left by the plot. Lucy is a case of a poor script being executed extremely well; there’s a lot of flash and sparkle, but very little substance.
As far as visual effects go, there’s a little of everything in Lucy. There’s plenty of CGI, ranging from simple medical animations to full-on Poltergeist-like sci-fi ghost effects. There’s also quite a bit of green screen, some of which is a little iffy, but most of it is passable. The film even contains a couple of cool instances of motion capture that are pretty impressive. Additionally, there are a good number of practical effects that make up things like gunshots and such. As if all of that isn’t enough, cinematographer Thierry Arbogast (who has shot most of Luc Besson’s films, as well as other action flicks like 3 Days to Kill) has a little fun by throwing in the old spinning-room trick that audiences will recognize from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Interestingly enough, even with all of the high-tech special effects, it’s the simple practical stuff and in-camera tricks that are the most convincing. Granted, a lot of the more elaborate effects could never have been executed practically, but the on-set special effects makeup crew really outshines the post-production guys in Lucy.
Luc Besson makes some interesting choices with the direction of Lucy, and most of them work pretty well. Besson takes an artistic approach to parts of the film that is pretty fascinating. When Lucy is being set up to be the drug mule, the director cuts in shots of a mouse sniffing cheese on a mousetrap. Similarly, when Lucy is being abducted by Jang and his men, footage of lions hunting a gazelle is edited in. For the first half of the film, the action will stop every so often and show Professor Norman’s classroom with him lecturing to his students about brain function, essentially narrating what is happening to Lucy in her life. Lucy is full of cool little instances like that, moments that have narrative function but also throw the viewer a quick curveball. Make no mistake, of course there are action sequences. After all, it is a Luc Besson film. But, the quick not-quite-subliminal stuff that the director sneaks into Lucy is just as engaging as the fighting, and these snippets keep the film level during some of the weaker sections.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Luc Besson
- Screenwriter(s): Luc Besson
- Cast: Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)Morgan Freeman (Professor Norman)Min-sik Choi (Mr. Jang)
- Cinematographer: Thierry Arbogast
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Eric Serra
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA