Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014) – Luc Besson’s Lucy is an absolutely insane attempt to fuse comic book action storytelling with grandiose philosophical pretentions. The writer/director has failed in his ambitions to be profound, but failed in such lovably ludicrous ways that his movie is almost more entertaining than it would have been if he had succeeded. As a result, Lucy is a glorious mess well worth shoving into your eyeholes. The closest point of comparison between Lucy and any other movie is Besson’s own The Fifth Element. That was a project he conceived of as a teenager and a movie that felt like it was made by a teenager accidentally given a blockbuster budget. Lucy similarly feels like the type of high-minded action movie that a 12-13 year old might whip up in a fever dream of half remembered TED talks and one too many bowls of sugary breakfast cereal. That Besson as a grown ass man would commit fully to that same concept is almost admirable. Only he would think it was a good or even plausible idea to fuse the philosophical filmmaking techniques of 2001 or Tree of Life with a vengeance-fueled Eurotrash action flick. More importantly, only he would do it in a 90-minute blast of gunfire, techno beats, and rapid-fire imagery. Lucy is so singularly and supremely stupid that it’s almost sublime.
Scarlett Johansson stars as the titular Lucy, a party girl and student living in Taiwan who ends up being forced by a deadbeat boyfriend to deliver a suitcase to a psychotic gangster (Oldboy’s Min-sik Choi). Unsurprisingly it doesn’t go well. In fact Choi end ups surgically shoving a bag of designer drugs into her stomach for a little international smuggling. At that point we’re treated to exposition master Morgan Freeman delivering a lecture about dolphins and evolution and how humans only use 10% of their brain (which isn’t true, but nevermind. Limitless, etc.). Why do we hear these things? Well, because that drug bag in Scarlett’s belly starts leaking and opening up all the untapped potential of her brain. That means that suddenly she has a profound connection to the universe and can learn anything she doesn’t implicitly know by rattling on a laptop at high speed. It also means that she’s suddenly got a collection of king fu, race driving, and gun-handling skills that she puts to good use in a flurry of action scenes.
When Besson runs out of set pieces to exploit that way, she also develops psychic powers. Why you ask? Well because she’s about to evolve to another plain of existence where she’ll learn all of the secrets to life, the universe, and everything! But don’t worry, she’s also going to give all of that knowledge to Morgan Freeman on a cosmic data key so that he can share it with the world.
So, Besson has essentially cast Johansson as a cross between Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element and Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, and the husky voiced, doe-eyed starlet is nearly perfect in that role. She kicks butt and looks dumbfounded at the secrets of the universe in as credible a way as humanly possible in such an idiotic movie while Freeman does his Dr. Exposition part well and Min-sik Choi does that stoic evil thing again. The central cast all work exquisitely well in their ridiculous roles and the action scenes (particularly a stand out Paris-leveling car chase) work wonders on the senses.
As a work of B-movie bliss, Besson has crafted Lucy with the skill and candy-colored excess that we’ve come to know and love him for. As an attempt to craft a head trip bit of existential sci-fi, the film is undeniably a failure. However, this aspect of the movie fails in such spectacularly and hilariously overwrought ways that it’s almost as entertaining as the cheap thrills that actually work. Lucy is a work of absolute madness and one constructed by such a seasoned and skilled entertainer that it never comes close to feeling boring. It’s not a good movie in a conventional sense, yet it’s also far from a bad one. Lucy is one of those movies that demands to be watched in slacked-jawed disbelief at least once just to confirm that it actually exists and isn’t some sort of trashy mirage. It’s kind of wonderful in its own deeply dumb way.
There might be many faults in the movie, but there is absolutely nothing to be faulted in Universal’s Blu-Ray presentation. The flick was unexpectedly a massive summer hit for the studio, pulling down $450 million worldwide off of a $40 million budget. So, they’ve gone all out to ensure their Lucy Blu-Ray is a home theater showcase. All of Besson’s trippy visuals that don’t add up intellectually look pretty damn gorgeous and are beautifully rendered on Blu-ray. Meanwhile that bombastic sound mix was amped up to make the small exploitation blockbuster feel massive and that translates perfectly at home with a room-shacking, lossless DTS track that combines trash techno and twisted metal into a symphony of spectacle.
Finally, there are the special features with weigh in at less than 30 minutes in total. There are only two featurettes. One is a brief 16-minute making of piece with Besson, Johansson, Freeman, and a few others. It’s pretty fluffy, back-slapping stuff, but there’s enough behind the scenes footage served up for it to be worth a look. Finally, there’s a 9-minute featurette describing the “real science” behind Lucy that’s just as absurd and accidentally funny as you’d hope. Sadly, that’s it for special features, but that’s not a big deal. You don’t buy a Blu-Ray of a movie like Lucy for a special feature film school. Nope, you get it for braindead entertainment and ludicrous laughs in the highest technical quality possible. Thankfully, this Blu serves up plenty of that transcendent stupid and is well worth a look for those who enjoy such things.