Besson Brings Style, but Lucy is Philosophically Problematic
- Saturday, July 26, 2014
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Run Time: 90 min.
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Min-sik Choi
This summer's first fun action movie has arrived—a breath of fresh air amid the industry trend toward grim, dark blockbusters that never miss a chance to be ponderous when they might instead be playful.
Luc Besson’s Lucy is a fast, furious 90 minutes of dumb summer fun—a cinematic surge that returns the French filmmaker to the form of his best known, best-liked films such as La Femme Nikita (1990), Leon: The Professional (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997).
You read those dates correctly: It’s been two decades since Besson gave us his best work, although he’s kept busy in the interim with, among others, a failed kids movie (Arthur and the Invisibles, 2006) and, most recently, the horrid comedy The Family—one of the worst movies of 2013. Lucy, ostensibly an action film, is a rarity among summer blockbusters: it allows its audience to laugh at its premise and enjoy the unfolding story, rather than dragging them through another super-serious proclamation about the fate of humanity.
That's not to say the film is free of objectionable content. It's ultra-violent, though heavily stylized, and its storyline blurs the Creator/creature distinction. But the realization of those ideas is so scattershot and seemingly secondary to the driving elements of the film—its action, editing and physical lead performance from Scarlett Johansson—that viewers can appreciate the film on levels other than the plot.
Lucy (Johansson, Don Jon) is studying in Taiwan when a friend forces her to deliver a mysterious package to a crime lord, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). Jang turns Lucy into a drug mule, surgically inserting a package containing a new chemical into Lucy and sending her to the airport to deliver the goods. When the substance starts leaking into Lucy's system, she finds she can use previously untapped brain capacity.
Lucy tracks down Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman, Now You See Me), who specializes in human brain potential, and finds a friend in Capt. Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), who protects Lucy as she comes to terms with the new powers the drugs have unleashed—telepathy, telekinesis and mad keyboarding skills. Jang's men try to reclaim their package from Lucy, but they prove no match for our heroine, who can climb walls effortlessly and control the bodily movement of others.
“I feel anything—space, the air,” says Lucy in describing the effects the drug is having as it leaks into her system. That sounds sensitive, but it’s really just a way of noting her increasing desperation and fear of the drug's effect on her. She wants the package to be removed, and she's willing to shoot and kill to get to a hospital and get a surgeon to operate on her.
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