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Awesome: 6.45%
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3 reviews, 13 user ratings

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by Brett Gallman

"Turn off your brain as ScarJo turns hers on."
3 stars

While “Lucy” is predicated upon that old false chestnut about humanity only having access to 10% of its brain capacity, it feels apt because I’m pretty Luc Besson still manages to only use about that much of his.

Seemingly working exclusively with the reptilian portion of his mind, his films often feel like pure instinct committed to celluloid, a Cinema du look with little time for higher functions. He’s a filmmaker who doesn’t give a fuck in the best way imaginable. In that respect, Besson has somewhat returned to form with “Lucy” both in form and content--once again armed with a femme-fatale/muse raring to kick ass, he’s crafted a film that moves so breathlessly and boisterously that it doesn’t care if you’re able to keep up, nor does is it particularly bothered by your realization that there’s actually nothing to keep up with. This is quite a proposition: a movie about getting smarter that becomes progressively dumber yet still manages to subvert certain expectations—it’s almost impossible to determine if I dislike it or actually love it.

If Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) were the latest super-heroine, she’d have one of the damnedest origin stories imaginable: on vacation in Thailand, she’s unwittingly roped into a mysterious deal involving an enigmatic tycoon (Choi Min-sik) in need of drug mules to smuggle an experimental new product across the world. An overnight stay in a dingy cell actually proves to be salvation when one of the guards assaults her and bursts the sack of drugs stitched into her stomach. After the synthetic concoction seeps through her bloodstream, she’s suddenly granted access to higher, previously unlocked brain regions that enable her escape.

This is where you expect Besson to cue up 60+ minutes of non-stop ass-kicking as Lucy takes revenge on the drug lords who have wronged her, and, while he does provide some dutiful car chases and gunplay (including a bit that doubles as the lesser shade of the lobby shootout in “The Matrix”), this isn’t exactly that sort of movie, or at least it likes to pretend it isn’t by practically reducing this stuff to a footnote. Instead, Besson’s slightly interested in exploring the pursuit of knowledge despite being knee-deep in pseudoscience. Morgan Freeman serves as the mouthpiece for this mumbo jumbo as a scientist renowned for his brain research, and it’s so ridiculous that you wonder just how quickly everyone burst into laughter on set after cameras stopped rolling. (Ever studious and dignified, Freeman somehow never breaks stride—you almost have to admire how committed he is to this bullshit).

But just how contemplative can a Luc Besson film of this order be when he aims to somehow encompass the entirety of human history? “Lucy” features one of the most staggering and unexpected opening sequences in recent memory, as it takes audiences all the way back to prehistoric man (er, woman—it’s later revealed that we’re looking at the hominid Lucy because symbolism), and Besson returns here later in an effort to ape an 80-minute version of “2001” for the Buzzfeed generation. In between, the film is unmistakably Besson’s, even despite the lack of overt broadness in the performances (you’re not going to see anything approaching whatever planet Gary Oldman is on in “The Fifth Element”).

Otherwise, he channels his typical lunacy throughout, sometimes by scattering it about the edges (when Lucy is initially drawn into the conspiracy, Besson splices in nature footage to mirror the hunter/prey dynamic, only to completely disregard this flourish later) and sometimes simply via visual overload. If Besson dreamed it up, chances are he crammed it onto the screen, whether it’s Lucy shape-shifting at will or experiencing the world in layers of digital code, like some unholy Pink Floyd laser show to appeal to the stoner crowd. As Lucy’s brain capacity continues to unlock, the film keeps tracks with inter-titles that feel like bumps of coke promising to burrow deeper into the insanity of its director’s brain. By the time you reach the climax—which simultaneously involves the secrets of the universe, time-travel, the singularity, and bazookas--you feel as though you’re free-basing pure Besson.

The effect is both thrilling and a little exasperating, especially when the film closes with the insistence that it’s solved the riddle of life despite having revealed nothing beyond Besson’s fetish chamber of guys shooting, punching, and kicking the shit out of each other. Whether or not this thirst for knowledge is a good thing is even up for grabs—there’s an anti-intellectual streak in the tired insistence that humanity perhaps isn’t meant to attain such heights, yet the entire film more-or-less hinges on preserving Lucy for science.

That the film never quite figures this out seems just right: “Lucy” is another exercise of pure Id, seemingly constructed on the fly around a very Besson idea of a girl on the run (and in Johansson he’s found a fine muse, as her increasingly deadpanned and dead-eyed performance accounts for much of the film’s amusement) with little regard for the ponderous implications that arise. I’m not even sure Besson even knows the meaning of the word ponderous at this point—it’s almost as if he’s bought into his own cult and embraced the utter mindlessness expected of him.

I kind of love that even his attempt to subvert this (how many summer blockbusters climax with the shootout acting as background noise while the heroine willingly remains confined to a chair in order to divulge crucial information?) is still pretty dopey. At the very least, “Lucy” is consistently compelling, if only because you sense that Besson is up to something, even if neither you nor he are sure what it is. Maybe I’ve talked myself into liking the film a little bit—well, so long as certain, lower-functioning parts of my brain are concerned, anyway.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26015&reviewer=429
originally posted: 07/25/14 00:00:56
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell good concept good movie 4 stars
7/31/15 mr.mike I found it to be dopey. 3 stars
2/18/15 Repeat43 It's been done before - Wonder Woman, without the cape. 3 stars
12/02/14 LANGANO Not bad, nothing special. 3 stars
11/26/14 Lsp4 Fell short 3 stars
9/05/14 al When dumb people make a movie about supposedly smart people you know it going be a dumb mov 1 stars
8/19/14 christine sarkauskas I had much higher expectations for this movie. The concept was good, the movie was awful 1 stars
8/15/14 teddy crescendo I want to bugger Scarlett Johansson 5 stars
8/11/14 action movie fan make a good video game but a crappy movie 1 stars
7/26/14 Turner Worst movie ever 1 stars
7/26/14 KingNeutron Well-done plot, nice job all around, and it has a good message. Recommended 5 stars
7/25/14 Ruth Goaz Gary Oldman is a pile of shit. 1 stars
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  25-Jul-2014 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jan-2015


  DVD: 20-Jan-2015

Directed by
  Luc Besson

Written by
  Luc Besson

  Scarlett Johansson
  Morgan Freeman
  Min-sik Choi

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