Scattered direction sabotages film
By Ian Murphy 08/21/2014
Directed by Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman
Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images and sexuality
1 hr. 29 min.
Science fiction has always walked a fine line between suspension of disbelief and complete unbelievability. It has also been held to a higher standard than most genres due to the intensity of a good majority of its fans. Films that deal with mind-bending high concepts like Blade Runner and 12 Monkeys are considered classics. Lucy, on the other hand, will not be called a classic now or ever.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a young, vivacious American student living in Taiwan. She gets tricked into working as a drug mule by her boyfriend, who happens to work for the Korean mob. Lucy delivers to mob boss Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) a briefcase containing a highly valuable synthetic drug called CPH4. Lucy is captured and a bag filled with the drug is sewn into her abdomen. She is given explicit instructions to take it to Europe for sale. Lucy is kicked in the stomach by one of her captors, breaking the bag and releasing the drug into her system. As a result of the CPH4, she gains hyper-enhanced physical and mental capabilities, including telepathy, and the ability to choose not to feel pain. She kills off her present captors and escapes, and while the Korean mob chases her, she enlists the help of the brilliant Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) and the trustworthy cop Amr (Pierre Del Rio). But as her mental acuity rises to astronomical levels, her time is running out.
The movies directed by Luc Besson have always been an acquired taste. The Professional is a disturbing crime picture and The Fifth Element and The Messenger are either loved or hated and with equally good reason. It should also be stated that Luc Besson is French, and their take on cinema varies wildly from the usual American taste. Lucy tries poorly to combine an artsy style with a gritty action movie. From the get-go our heroine is a reckless, irresponsible party girl who deserves about as much sympathy from the audience as a Kardashian throwing a fit in a ritzy boutique. And her predicament, while horrifying, is not one that elicits any sort of empathy. The drug in question makes her supersmart, a great fighter and pretty much six X-Men rolled into one. Yes, it cuts down on her lifespan, but so did her lifestyle prior to the incident.
Scarlett Johansson is as engaging as she usually is and Morgan Freeman is eloquent as ever. The supporting cast is effective and the script isn’t bad, with the core concept of a drug that makes humans use more than the allotted 10 percent of their brainpower being an intriguing one. It is the direction that tanks this film. Besson uses techniques that would have gotten him kicked out of film school. Montages seemingly taken straight out of a 1970s PBS wildlife special, heavy-handed narration (by Freeman, of course) of the events as they happen, and gimmicky fight scenes. These come together to make a distasteful cinematic stew. And there’s not even any gratuitous nudity. (Why else go see a Morgan Freeman picture?) Lucy is a bad movie trying to come off as an ambitious one. It is a classic waste of time.