When I first saw the trailer for Lucy, I was like, “Damn, that’s hot.” And I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for anything Scarlett Johansson does, so that just might have something to do with my reaction. All I could tell was that she was somehow a drug mule done wrong and suddenly gets superhuman powers. What’s not to like? That it was directed by French filmmaker Luc Besson (ranked “In The Lobby” by the braintrust here at VOH) didn’t hurt, but didn’t really help much either. I’d probably go see Scar Jo directed by VOH-certified hack Michael Bay (in The Island), or directed by the man responsible for the crazily-disappointing Cowboys and Aliens, Jon Favreau (in Iron Man 2). ‘Cause it’s her. So I was down to see Lucy.
And I went to see it and was not that impressed. I think I was taken by surprise with what Besson, who also wrote the screenplay, was trying to say. I didn’t really get it. I thought I was in for a straightforward revenge flick, but once Lucy gets tuned in and turned on by all those synthetic drugs released in her system, suddenly revenge is the very last thing on her mind, if at all. So I had to go see it again, about a month or so later, at a second-run theater. And I finally got it.
Richard Corliss from Time called it “… the summer’s coolest, juiciest, smartest action movie.” Well, as usual, he was wrong, which is one of the many reasons I don’t read Time. Edge of Tomorrow was the summer’s coolest, juiciest, smartest action movie. But Lucy is damn cool, no doubt about it.
Don’t get it twisted. While it’s not a revenge flick, Lucy gets to kick a serious amount of butt; it’s just that her motivation is not what you’d expect. It comes from a surprisingly high place. Check out the trailer and my 5 things will follow after the jump.
1) Say what you want about Luc Besson, but the man has style. An absolutely prolific writer/producer who also directs, Besson has been involved with some of the most stylistic and, quite honestly, thrilling films of the last few decades. They weren’t always great films, mind, but they were uniformly a blast to watch: La Femme Nikita (1990), Leon: The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997), The Transporter (2002), District B13 (2004), Columbiana (2011). All very slick, entertaining stuff. Lucy is no different.
2) The great Choi Min-sik. Probably best known to American film buffs for his work with the great Korean director Park Chan-wook in Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005), Choi turns in a terrific performance as the heavy behind the whole drug thing. Admittedly, Besson doesn’t give him a lot to do, other than create the menace that drives all of the action, and Choi handles it effortlessly. I love a good villain!
3) Morgan Freeman shows up to class up the joint. Works everytime. Actually, Freeman serves as the voice of Besson, patiently trying to explain just what the hell is going on. It’s a tough job, and the jury is still out on whether he succeeded or not. Okay, the jury’s not out, actually the verdict is in, and most reviewers and moviegoers were confused, just like me. So go a second time, it actually gets better.
4) International flavor, yo. One of the best things about watching movies by non-American filmmakers is that they often take us places outside of this country. It’s a big, beautiful world out there. We might as well see some of it while we scarf down popcorn and raisinets (thanks, Paul Reiser).
5) Scarlett is in it. Seriously, beyond my unrequited love for the Johansson, she actually puts in good work with this crazy character, as she struggles to show the drastic changes her body and mind are going through. One of the transformations explained early on is the loss of emotion, as those feelings are quickly overwhelmed by being able to feel literally everything. So Scarlett is left with having to act her way through the rest of the movie without the use of very many facial expressions. Some haters may see this as the movie’s saving grace. Whatever. I think she did a great job in what is sure to become a cult classic.
As for my Visionary or Hack rating for Luc Besson? No change, he stays In the Lobby.
Here are a few Amazon Instant Video links of some Scar Jo vehicles. Did I mention that I love her?:
For me, Lucy was “Tree of Life meets the Matrix”. Unfortunately, this is a high concept that’s much worse on screen than on paper. Watching the movie, I thought that Besson was effing with us by directing the movie as a cynical joke. However by the end, I came to the realization that Besson actually took the film seriously and it was actually his filmmaking that made the movie so laughable. Once a style-over-substance filmmaker loses his/her touch on cutting edge cinematic stylishness, there is nothing left.
Yeah, but… Scarlett!