Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Scarlett Joansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pilou Asbæk, Analeigh Tipton
MPAA Rating: (for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality)
Running Time: 1:30
Release Date: 7/25/14
Review by Mark Dujsik | July 24, 2014
It would be unfair to say that writer/director Luc Besson has a problem with women without any evidence. Even with evidence from a movie, it would be questionable to flat-out state that Besson has a pitiable outlook of the female sex that manifests itself in his work. After all, it's just a movie, and that may not be an accurate reflection of his views on the subject. Thankfully, there is a big difference between direct statement and strong suggestion, so let's just go over the basic gist of Lucy.
The movie starts with the eponymous heroine, who is played by Scarlett Johansson, as she argues with her boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbæk). He handcuffs the briefcase, which he's supposed to deliver to a man, to Lucy's arm, forcing her to do something she, wisely, doesn't want to do.
In an odd and unnecessary cutaway (not the first and certainly not the last), Besson gives us a brief shot a mouse approaching a trap so we know that, well, this whole scenario is a trap. Of course, one could interpret the brief interruption as Besson's way of scolding Lucy for not realizing what should be perfectly clear, but at this point, that would jumping to a conclusion.
It must be noted that, in these early scenes, Lucy is an emotional wreck—and, to anyone with even a trace of compassion, rightly so. When she arrives at the lobby of the hotel where the recipient of the briefcase resides, she is flustered to the point of being unable to form complete thoughts. Her condition gets worse when she sees Richard's head explode in a geyser of blood and must helplessly fight back against a gang of guards, who drag her to one of the hotel's suites (Besson gives us yet another cutaway—and, sadly, it's not the last one, either—of cheetahs hunting prey). There, she spots bodies on the bathroom floor twitching in their final moments of life, and Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), covered in blood, exits the bathroom.
It's a terrifying sequence of events, made even more so by how effective Johansson is during them. There's something perverse about the whole thing, though. There are the jokey visual metaphors. There's a moment in which Jang tells Lucy to open the briefcase, at which point he leaves the room and his bodyguards pull out blast shields. When she does open it, she finds bags of a synthetic drug that replicates the effect of one a pregnant woman's body releases to the fetus to kick-start its development.
After more physical punishment, Jang turns Lucy into a drug mule by having a doctor implant a bag of the chemical into Lucy's abdomen. She's locked in concrete cell where a thug tries to rape her, punches her in the head when she fights back, and proceeds to kick her in the stomach. The pouch bursts, and the drug enters Lucy's bloodstream in fiery explosions.
All of this physical and psychological turmoil, you see, was worth it. We indirectly learn the reason from Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a neuroscientist whose lecture is intercut throughout the first act (It is, in turn, intercut with montages visualizing what his key points). Lucy, like all humans, had only used about 10 percent of her brain (a stupid myth—consider the effects of a lobotomy). This drug increases her access to unused parts of her brain, and Besson provides useless titles telling us what percent of brain function she has reached.
What the drug does do, though, is turn Lucy into a robotic, remorseless killing machine. This, apparently, is Besson's concept of feminine strength. He removes any indication of a personality from his heroine and turns her into a sociopath, who, at one point, shoots a patient on the operating table because, as she rationalizes, "He wasn't going to make it, anyway." Later, she speeds down the streets of Paris with no regard for other motorists, saying that "No one really dies" (The character with her is not even remotely curious about the statement). Aside from the regressive portrait of its heroine, the movie is a mess of pseudo-scientific babble. We see Lucy gain superhuman abilities, such as reading minds, manipulating the thoughts of men and dogs, creating matter out of nothing, levitating henchmen, and pretty much anything else that could remove any and all tension from the proceedings.
Lucy climaxes in a surreal sequence that gives us the history of the universe in reverse. It's ambitious, yes, but also grandly silly. Besson expects us to take his tour of time and space seriously, even as it's juxtaposed with something as trivial as a mindless shootout. Ultimately, both feel inconsequential and inane.
Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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