Tuesday, August 5, 2014

LUCY (2014)

Written & Directed by Luc Besson

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. July 25, 2014 8:00PM

"Lucy" offers all you would expect from a summer action flick but with a little something extra. In between the bloody shoot-outs, car chases and bone-crushing combats, there are thoughtful discussions on evolution and fascinating scientific theories on the capacity of the human brain. While these ideas may seem to be out of sync, writer/director Luc Besson, the man behind the engaging crowd-pleasers, "La Femme Nikita", "The Professional" and "Taken", mostly succeeds in making this inspired mash-up of B-movie thrills and compelling sci-fi completely irresistible and a lot of fun.

Scarlett Johansson plays the title character, an American student living in Taiwan who spends much of her time partying hard with her shady current fling (Pilou Asbæk). He turns out to be a really lousy date as he handcuffs a briefcase to Lucy's wrist and forces her to deliver it to Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik from "Old Boy"), a ruthless Korean drug lord. The case contains CPH4, a synthetic narcotic that gives the user a sense of heighten awareness. The next thing Lucy knows she's awakening with excruciating pain in her abdomen. A package of the drug has been sewn-up inside of her and has to drop off the contents in New York.

While being held awaiting her departure, one of Lucy's guards makes unwanted advances which is met with swift resistance. Angered, he kicks Lucy relentlessly in the stomach which releases an overdose of the drug in to her system. This creates a reaction that advances her brain functions, giving her incredible mental abilities and physical strength. After Lucy easily escapes, she now has revenge on her mind, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. When Lucy finally gets to Jang, she doesn't kill him. She merely philosophizes while administering to him some of the gruesome, agonizing pain he has inflicted upon others.

Morgan Freeman appears as Professor Norman, one of the top neurologists in the world. We first see him delivering a lengthy, somewhat dry lecture on the subject of the brain. The reliably, smooth actor demonstrates part of the reason why he was cast as he's effortlessly able to keep your attention throughout. Lucy makes contact with Norman as her brain capacity increases at a phenomenal rate which she puts on display for the skeptical professor. They agree to meet at a Paris conference but first Lucy must round-up the rest of the CPH4 that's stored in the bodies of other mules heading towards destinations across Europe. As her body needs more of the drug to reach maximum intelligence, Lucy enlists a French cop (Amr Waked) to help track down the carriers while a wounded Jang is hot on her trail without a clue to what she has become.

Angelina Jolie was initially approached for the lead in the film but Ms Johansson is an acceptable and perhaps even more appropriate replacement. While the actress shares Ms Jolie's otherworldly beauty and tough chick demeanor, Johansson has always come across as approachable and far more vulnerable. Here, much like her role as an alien in "Under The Skin", her face is a blank slate, revealing nothing on the surface yet we are still capable of understanding her emotions as her mind evolves towards higher consciousness. The actress is able to convey so much with those soulful eyes as Lucy struggles not to completely lose sight of her humanity.

"Lucy" delivers plenty of stylish visuals and nonstop action that even the lectures don't actually slow things down. Sure, some of the plot points don't always add up or are downright silly yet this hardly distracts from the enjoyment of this flick. Mr. Besson is one of the few male filmmakers who has consistently placed a female front and center in many of the action movies he has directed or produced beginning with "Nikita" way back in 1990. While "Lucy" doesn't exactly reach the same heights as some of his previous works but it's still a solid addition.