Review: LUCY (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Review: LUCY (2014)

3 stars
3 stars
Blessed with eye-catching visuals and Scarlett Johansson's magnetic performance, LUCY turns out to be a fascinating, if wildly uneven sci-fi thriller.

When the trailer for LUCY first debuted online, it certainly plays out like an action-packed thriller with a sci-fi overtone. After all, the idea of watching Scarlett Johansson headlining her first leading action role guided by renowned French director Luc Besson definitely sounds like a lot of fun. But it turns out that LUCY isn't the kind of typical action movie you've come to expect from Luc Besson. Instead, the movie is surprisingly more cerebral while those are expecting Johansson in a full kick-ass mode might find this a disappointment. Still, for a movie that borrows different genre elements from the complicated sci-fi angle of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), THE MATRIX (1999), INCEPTION (2010) and TRANSCENDENCE (2014), to the stylish action beat of Besson's own LEON THE PROFESSIONAL (1994) and even a dose of National Geographic documentaries, it's almost impossible to ignore LUCY altogether. 


The movie begins with the titular Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), who gets handcuffed to a mysterious locked briefcase by her boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbæk) and forced her to deliver it to a Korean gangster named Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik). She then ends up being used her as a drug mule on which a bag of synthetic drug known as CPH4 is surgically implanted into her stomach. When one of her captors kick her hard in the stomach, the CPH4 in the bag has somehow leak into her body system and immediately turns her into some kind of a superhuman. After she single-handedly takes down her captors, she sets out for revenge against Mr. Jang and his men while seeking help from renowned brain researcher Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) about her unusual condition.
Personally, I'm glad that writer-director Luc Besson returns to the Hollywood blockbuster territory we all grown accustomed to, especially after his last year's debacle of the unfunny mob comedy MALAVITA. With the help of editor Julien Rey and cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, his vibrant direction brings a lot of hyperactive energy that reminds me of his last sci-fi movie, THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997). The visuals are engaging enough to hold your interest, with one of the prime examples being the airplane bathroom scene where Lucy finds her entire body being disintegrated after drinking a glass of champagne.

However, most credits should goes to Scarlett Johansson for making the movie constantly watchable, even though the premise offers here is admittedly silly and exaggerated. She certainly brings a lot of pathos to her character as Lucy. From watching her in a vulnerable condition as she begs for her life at the beginning of the movie and showing heartfelt emotion during a hospital scene (see "Most Memorable Moment(s)") to turning cold and emotionless when she goes on a killing spree, Johansson's performance is so dedicated that it's hard not to root for her.

The supporting actors are all pale in comparison against Johansson, but still sufficient enough to justify their underwritten roles. Even though Morgan Freeman's role is largely relegated to explaining lot of theories about the human brain and such, at least he fares better here than he did in the thematically similar but awfully lifeless TRANSCENDENCE. In his first Hollywood debut, renowned South Korean actor Choi Min-Sik (2003's OLDBOY) does his best as the merciless gangster Mr. Jang who doesn't speak English other than his native language. 

The intense opening scene when the terrified Lucy first encounters Mr. Jang and his men inside the hotel room; the surprisingly poignant scene where Lucy made a long-distance call to her mom about how she remembers everything when she was a baby; and the brief but spectacular car chase scene through the busy streets of Paris.

Despite clocking at a scant 90 minutes, the movie tends to bog down with several exposition-heavy scenes. Case in point here is the somewhat overlong scene involving Morgan Freeman's character lecturing about the untapped potential of the human brain.

While I don't mind Besson chooses to go cerebral with his latest movie here, it would be appreciated if he shows equal importance to the action scenes as well. It's not that he fails to deliver in the action department. In fact, the action, such as the one involving the shootout scene, is visually engaging. The problem is the lack of action to balance the sci-fi mumbo jumbo that occurred throughout the movie.


Although LUCY has its fair share of glaring flaws, it remains brainy and fun summer blockbuster worth checking out for.

* This review is written courtesy from United International Pictures Malaysia IMAX 2D press screening *

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