July 31, 2014
Lucy (***) Rated R
Luc Beeson is a director whose career has alternated between hits and misses and in my opinion is inconsistent at best. During his first decade as a director, Beeson turned out such intriguing fare as La Femme Nikita, The Big Blue, The Professional and The Fifth Element and then slipped into what appeared to be a creative slump, appearing only intermittently to either write or direct (or both) such predictable fare as the Taken and Transporter films. I had given up on Beeson long ago. That’s why it was a surprise to me that his latest film Lucy turned out to be such an undeniably enjoyable experience and a nice return to form.
Some will criticize the film as derivative as it takes the central plot conceit of the 2011 film Limitless and retrofits it. I guess there’s a kernel of truth to that accusation somewhere. Lucy, however, is just inventive enough that this probably won’t be a problem even for those overly familiar with that Bradley Cooper starrer from three years ago. Beeson’s film is visually arresting and much smarter than product that viewers are used to seeing trotted out in wide release at the end of July and for those reasons alone the film stands on its own. I’m glad to see Beeson inspired for the first time in quite awhile.
Scarlett Johansson stars as the title character. In the film’s opening scenes, she’s asked by her boyfriend of a week to deliver a silver briefcase. When she refuses, she is handcuffed to the case and is forced to deliver the package. What Lucy doesn’t realize is that inside the briefcase is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring hormone that will allow humans to access 100% of their cerebral capacity.
Scarlett Johansson & Morgan Freeman in Lucy
Through a set of story twists and turns, Lucy ingests the substance and suffers the consequences. The film alerts us throughout its unspooling via title cards, 10%, 20%, etc., at what percentage Lucy’s brain is operating. She eventually teams with a scientist (Morgan Freeman) who’s been researching this subject and very curious to meet Lucy. In between this, there are the drug dealers who are attempting to kill Lucy before she puts a stop to the spread of the drug for good.
The film has a very interesting visual style right from the get go. There is an early sequence in the film illustrating how limited humans are in what we’ve accomplished versus what we think we’ve accomplished that grabbed me immediately. Through clever and precise editing, the film zips along and never seems to lag, even though the scenes where the gangsters are attempting to assassinate Lucy do grow a bit tiresome from time to time. There’s still enough intellectual heft to keep viewers engaged from start to finish. I only hope it’s the beginning of a new phase in director Luc Beeson’s career and, assuming it is, it's a good place to be heading.
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