Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Disturbing Images, and Sexuality
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-Sik, Amr Waked
Luc Besson doesn’t make normal movies. That’s a cinematic fact. His projects range in quality due to his quirky sensibilities. Though I’m convinced the man will never top LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, Besson has some form of creativity injected into every piece of his work. With his written-but-not-directed 3 DAYS TO KILL surprising me earlier this year, I was hoping that LUCY might be something more than a so-so piece of sci-fi action that looked iffy at best. Judging from the sold out theater, LUCY is bound to be a summer hit, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The movie takes a neat idea and rolls with it in entertaining fashion, but jumps the shark in an overblown ending that will leave a lot of people (myself included) unsatisfied.
Lucy is a young woman forced into a dangerous situation. Thanks to her asshole boyfriend’s blunder, she’s caught up in a drug smuggling scheme. The cargo is a concentrated powder that has unforeseen side effects and has been sewn into her stomach. After being kicked in her newly stitched up area, the bag of drugs leaks inside her and Lucy’s brain activity is suddenly skyrocketing. The average 10% that humans use is a thing of the past for Lucy. As intelligence and superhuman abilities increase, her life expectancy drops. Lucy must make the most of the time she has left with the help of a police officer (Amr Waked) and a renowned scientist (Morgan Freeman). Meanwhile, the gangsters who surgically implanted that stuff inside Lucy’s tummy are hunting for her.
The first thing that really struck me about LUCY was the oddball style in how it was told. The first 20 minutes or so cut between Lucy’s ordeal and Morgan Freeman delivering a lecture. Lots of montages featuring stock footage were also inserted throughout. One example is Lucy walking into the den of gangsters and a deer being hunting by a pack of cheetahs. It is a strange thing, but it also provides some laughs during the Morgan Freeman’s lecture. A solid sense of humor is present too that is delivered through Lucy doing something unexpected to someone in her way, whether they’re a good person or one of the many Korean gangsters. The film also cuts to percentage cards (28%, 40%, 50%, etc.) as Lucy’s powers increase. I felt that this was a neat way of letting the audience know just how powerful she was becoming at the moment and how much time was left until the conclusion. Something that might throw audiences for the loop is how LUCY is not what it’s being advertised as. It never fully launches into insane violence and embraces its R-rating (e.g. the final shootout in LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL). The end result does wind up being fun and trippy, but there are plenty problems that weight it down.
As far as the acting is concerned, Scarlett Johansson continues to impress with her abilities and range of characters she can bring life to. This is a woman who in less than the past year has played a comic book heroine, a romantic lead, an alien, the voice of a robot, and doesn’t do anything too similar to these roles as Lucy. The title character herself points out that as she becomes stronger the things that make her human are beginning to fade. Johansson goes from scared victim to near emotionless badass in the space of this film and does it well. A face that might be familiar to fans of OLDBOY and I SAW THE DEVIL would be Choi Min-Sik popping up as the big bad. His character does nothing more but pose a threat for Lucy. There’s still plenty of entertainment to be had from his presence as a mob boss. Amr Waked appears as a near useless sidekick character in the police officer. He even states that Lucy doesn’t need him anymore about halfway through the film and his point is legit. He serves almost no purpose. Morgan Freeman also plays Morgan Freeman, though they don’t come out and call him that.
Throughout the running time, LUCY dives into utter lunacy. It’s all in the vein of being fun and while it succeeds at that, the film does drag in places. It really jumps the shark in the finale. The movie went from being wild and crazy to art house territory and this felt completely inappropriate to the movie that the audience had been sitting through for just over an hour (the running time is a scant 90 minutes). In some places, the film takes on content that TRANSCENDENCE tried to do and completely failed at. LUCY doesn’t fare much better, but there’s a whole lot of silly B-flick material that was enjoyable to sit through. The movie is a mixed bag as a whole and it’s not what most people are expecting it to be in the slightest.
Taken on a purely superficial level, LUCY is cool in the sense that I had fun watching it and there are lots of good comic relief. However, it’s not nearly as action-packed as one might think (with about 4 or 5 notable set-pieces) and dabbles in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY material in the final 10 minutes. It’s a silly flick that suffered from an identity crisis. Also for being only 90 minutes, the movie drags in spots. This is far from Luc Besson’s finest hour, but I’d say LUCY is worth a look on cable, Netflix, or Redbox. There’s not enough positive qualities to recommend laying down hard-earned cash for a theater ticket for this one.