Friday, 8 August 2014

Movie Review: Lucy (2014)


A slick action-packed thriller with super-power shadings, Lucy contemplates the limits of human potential through the sharp adventure of a woman suddenly able to use the full power of her brain.

In Taiwan, party girl Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is pressured into delivering a mysterious briefcase to crimelord Jang (Choi Min-sik). The briefcase contains the new superdrug CPH4, and Lucy is soon forced into a mule assignment along with other victims, who all have a bag of drugs sewn into their intestines for transport into Europe. After rough treatment by Jang's goons, the bag in Lucy's stomach ruptures, and her system starts to absorb large quantities of CPH4, dramatically enhancing her brain's abilities.

Lucy gains superpowers that start with rapid absorption of information, tremendous learning capability, self-healing and pain immunity. She disrupts Jang's plans to export the drug by alerting police captain Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) about the incoming mules, and travels to Paris to seek Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), a world expert on the brain's true potential. As her brain's capacity races towards 100 percent of potential, her powers progress to the ability to control objects, electronic signals, and people. Samuel tries to figure out what Lucy's condition means to the world of science, while Jiang and his army of henchmen are hot on her trail to try and recover their missing drugs.

A weird hybrid combining the indestructible kick-ass attitude of Kill Bill, Vol. 1 with the humanistic evolutionary mysticism of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lucy is an enjoyable intellectual romp. The film ultimately falls just a bit short in every direction, but director and writer Luc Besson certainly has fun trying.

The action scenes are bursting with energy but lose their edge thanks to Lucy's immense powers: she cannot get hurt, so every battlefield and shootout with Jang's army is an uneven mis-match with a pre-determined outcome. Besson achieves a measure of compensation by injecting the action with a mean streak of humour.

The science aspects of the film are built on the dubious factoid that humans typically use only 10 percent of their mental capacity, and Lucy builds plenty of castles on that air. The ideas are certainly thought-provoking and sometimes ingenious, but the film often descends into dreamy CGI sequences showing us the happenings inside Lucy's body. These progress to a climax of special effects involving computer terminals being devoured into a sea of oily black goo, Besson quickly wrapping things up in under 90 minutes, and leaving the heavy thinking to be discussed on another day.

Scarlett Johansson bolsters her cool credentials with a performance all about edgy attitude. As soon as Lucy gains her powers, Johansson transforms into an effortlessly lithe super human, and she cuts through the film with an irresistible iciness. Freeman delivers his routine cerebral role, Waked is swallowed up in Johansson's wake, while Choi Min-sik and his gang of thugs remain at the old-school animation level of depth.

Lucy invites a conversation about the potential of our mental powers. It's ultimately not the most serious of forums, but an enjoyable frolic into the land of imaginative conjecture.






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