Friday, August 1, 2014

Movie Review - Lucy


Lucy is a different kind of movie.  It's part action, part science fiction, part supernatural thriller.  It's about a college student named Lucy (played by Scarlett Johansson) who gains the ability to access parts of her brain previously unused by human beings after being dosed with some drugs that accelerate brain functions, and her attempt to find the man who she believes can help her, a professor of Neurology named Dr. Norman (played by Morgan Freeman).  While she races to meet up with the Professor she is pursued by a group of Taiwanese gangsters looking to get back their missing contraband.  What seems like a pretty straightforward plot takes some weird twists along the way and by the time the movie ended I was left scratching my head.  That doesn't make it a bad movie; in fact, it's hard to put an kind of grade on it because the kind of movie it starts out as is different from the movie it ends up as.

The movie opens up with Lucy talking with her boyfriend of about a week or so, Richard, who is supposed to deliver a briefcase to a shady Taiwanese executive, Mr. Jang.  He asks her to do it for him, because apparently he can't show his face in the building. Lucy balks so he does what any loving boyfriend would: handcuff the briefcase to her so she has to go deliver it for him.  While this is going on, we cut back forth to a lecture that Dr. Norman is giving about brain capacity and how humans only use 10 percent of their brain capacity, followed by what could happen if we accessed more.  After Lucy reluctantly enters the building and acts the receptionist for Mr. Jang, cuts of a leopard chasing an antelope and catching it are spliced in with Mr. Jang's henchmen coming from the elevator to forcefully take her upstairs.  As they arrive in the lobby Richard meets the fate that you knew was awaiting him from the start.  Once in the company of Mr. Jang and his men, Lucy opens the briefcase and is later given the real job that was intended for Richard: to transport some drugs inside her body and, once that's done, go home.  This goes about as well as you expect; Lucy gets beaten up by some thugs and in the process her stash of drugs begin leaking into her body.  And that's when the fun starts.

The drugs begin taking effect, and after freeing herself from captivity Lucy finds her way to a hospital so a doctor can open her back up and tell her what's inside her.  It turns out that she was carrying a synthesized version of a natural chemical that mothers generate during pregnancy, one that is responsible for cellular and cognitive development. Having this stuff inside her is accelerating her cellular development and cognitive abilities to the point of giving her abilities normally not known to humans.  From here she seeks out Dr. Norman as her brain functionality increases and her physical body begins to break down.  To keep herself together long enough to find Dr. Norman she has to find the other drug couriers and get their supplies so she ingest them, all while staying ahead of Mr. Jang and his men who are trying to get everything back.  Without spoiling anything else I'll just say there's a lot of action.  The movie takes a weird turn in the final 20-plus minutes where everything gets sewn up as it moves from action/science fiction to a more supernatural tone reminiscent of The Matrix.  How you take the final act will probably determine how you judge the movie.  If you're good with it then you'll be good with the film but if not then it can turn you against it even if you were good up to that point.

Another thing that you'll either like or won't like is the lack of explaining that goes on throughout the story.  We never find out how or why the drugs were made or why Mr. Jang is trading in them.  We also don't get any kind of definitions as to how the drugs begin to take root in your system and only a base level of discussion of how they make Lucy able to do all the things she ends up doing.  Stuff just happens.  The upside to that is that you don't get 30 minutes of people sitting around engaged in boring dialogue about molecular biology and quantum mechanics.  Scarlet Johansson is almost every scene of the film and she does very well with it as she runs through a lot of the roles she's played in different films, from the hot girl to the action heroine.  I find her performance to be an empowering one.  She doesn't descend into any of the stereotypical, overly emotional woman in an action chase film kind of tropes.  When she does seek out assistance it's not in a damsel in distress kind of way but the way a male lead would do - direct, to the point, and bluntly.  She doesn't goo goo eye or phone sex voice her way into anything, and there's no raging woman scorned act either.  When she finally meets up with Dr. Norman she takes the alpha position with no hesitation.  Morgan Freeman does his Morgan Freeman thing - he plays the wise man who's not afraid to admit he doesn't know everything, and he plays it well as always.

I give this a 3.5 out of 5.  Some expository scenes would have made the finale a little easier to fathom, and the run up to it easier to understand.  This really is a beauty in the eye of the beholder kind of movie.  You could literally ask 10 people their opinion and get 10 different opinions.  Overall I found it watchable, and I didn't feel like I wasted my money on it.  I was able to live without the things I thought were missing.  Not a must see but if you're free on an afternoon and need a way to pass and hour and a half you can do a lot worse.

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