Sunday, August 3, 2014


You'll love "Lucy."  French filmmaker Luc Besson, who helmed "Le Femme Nikita," "Angel-A," and "Colombiana," takes the feminist-oriented action thriller genre to the next level.  This outlandish but entertaining hokum chronicles the mutation of a defenseless damsel-in-distress into an invincible dame with heretofore unimagined mental powers.  Our provocative protagonist comes to rely more on her brains than her biology.  Comparably, "Lucy" reminded me a little of the 2004 foreign movie "Maria Full of Grace."  Columbian drug traffickers planted cocaine in the stomach of a teenage girl in "Maria Full of Grace" and used her to smuggle their smack into the United States. Happily, this savvy babe turned the tables on her captors!  Similarly, our heroine in "Lucy" finds a pouch of exotic synthetic drugs sew into her tummy and given a plane ticket for America.  The last thing that her savage, cold-blooded captors are prepared for is her improbable reprisal.  Lucy turns the tables on them in ways that not even she could have thought before she encountered these merciless hooligans.  Indeed, actress Scarlett Johansson would be the whole show if Morgan Freeman weren't lecturing in cutaway shots as a prestigious physician, Professor Samuel Norman, whose ranks as the foremost expert on gray matter.  When Professor Norman isn't delivering lectures to enthralled audiences about the percentage of use that humans derive from their noodles, Besson treats us to illuminating Animal Planet excerpts of jungle animals that punctuate the running battle Lucy carries on with the heavily-armed Asian drug smugglers.  Korean actor Choi Min-shik, who starred in director Chan-wook Park's first version of the revenge thriller "Oldboy" (2003), makes a memorable villain named Mr. Jang.  You will love to hate Mr. Jang.  Furthermore, Mr. Jang's immaculately tailored henchmen are as homicidal as he is until he meets our feminist heroine after she experiences a massive change in her attitude.  Interestingly enough, before she made "Lucy," Scarlett Johansson appeared in "Under the Skin," a 2013 sci-fi thriller about an alien who masquerades as a human to prey on lonely men in Scotland.  For the record, Besson had cast Angelina Jolie as Lucy, but Jolie had to drop out, so Johansson stepped into the role.

The first time we see Lucy (Scarlett Johansson of "The Avengers"), she is arguing with her scummy boyfriend, Richard (Pilou Asbæk of "The Whistleblower"), clad in a straw cowboy-hat and red sunglasses in front of a fashionable, high-rise motel in Taiwan. Richard is struggling to convince Lucy to deliver a sleek briefcase to a motel guest named Mr. Jang.  Richard insists that he cannot personally hand the briefcase over to Mr. Jang.  He says that he has seen the man too many times.  Lucy refuses to deliver the briefcase.  She asks Richard about the contents of the briefcase.  As it turns out, Richard doesn't have a clue about what is in the briefcase.  Their entire argument sounds like something that Quentin Tarantino's characters argued about in "Pulp Fiction."  Everything in the seminal crime thriller "Pulp Fiction" turned on the mysterious contents of a cryptic briefcase.  Just as Lucy is about to walk away from Richard, this reprobate of a boyfriend handcuffs the brief case to her wrist so she cannot get it off. Eventually, Lucy relents and enters the motel while Richard watches her with great anticipation.  Suffice to say, things go downhill like an avalanche for both Richard and our heroine.  The action sequences in "Lucy" are breathtaking, especially the predictable but exciting car chase through Paris with Lucy at the wheel of a police car.  Besson charts the action according to the percentage of brain power that our heroine is able to harness until fadeout when she concludes her incredible metamorphosis.  During this haywire ride, Parisian detective Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked of “Syriana”) sees things that he never thought possible.

Initially, "Lucy" unfolds as a standard-issue, dark-themed, revenge thriller in the vein of something notorious horror maestro Eli Roth of "Hostel" fame would perpetrate.  About half-way through its lean, mean 90 minutes, this nimble Universal Pictures release changes our protagonist from a Shanghaied schoolgirl into a pistol-packing mother who doesn't need a guy to save her bacon.  She becomes the equivalent of Liam Neeson in the "Taken" thrillers and then she even surpasses him!  She doesn't even have to rely on guns.  Earlier, the fiendish villains rounded up not only poor Lucy but also three other guys and sewed a kilo pouch of strange blue crystals called CPH4 into their intestines. Basically, CPH4 amounts to the equivalent of stuff that pregnant moms produce to cultivate their fetuses.  Somebody utters ominously enough about the substance: ""For a baby, it packs the power of an atomic bomb."" Our ingenious heroine manages to escape the clutches of the bad guys, and she alerts the authorities about herself as well as the other mules.  Unfortunately, the police are in no way prepared for the commitment that the criminals have for their product.  They will kill anybody who comes between them and their junk.  As the bullets fly, the bodies whether innocent bystanders or gunmen stack up in piles.  These villains are armed with more than just fully automatic weapons. Before the dust settles, however, Besson's crime thriller transforms into a mind-boggling science fiction actioneer reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."  Literally, the heroine becomes the equivalent of the monolith in the Kubrick film.  Indeed, the ending is a mind blower in itself, but you may feel cheated by this ending.  In another sense, the ending of “Lucy” is reminiscent too of the wrap up to “Star Trek: the Motion Picture,” where a female android mated with a human to take mankind farther into the future than humanity had ever gone!  Nevertheless, nothing that you have seen this summer will prepare you for “Lucy” and its supercharged little saga.

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