Release: Friday, July 25, 2014


While it’s true this outing is a step up from last year’s The Family, with director Luc Besson even seeming willing to dip his toes into deeper waters as far as interesting concepts are concerned, we are, unfortunately, still not operating at 100% yet.

It might seem dismissive to rule this summer’s latest sci-fi obsession guilty of association based on who’s directing it (a man whose last effort found Robert DeNiro and Tommy Lee Jones competing to see who could look more disinterested in being involved), but at the same time it’s also clear that there has got to be some kind of three-strike rule in place for at least this reviewer. There’s only so many times one can go to a film expecting the worst, then receiving pretty much just that and then going to do it all over again another time, hoping for something different.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s the definition of insanity.

Even the great Morgan Freeman can be heard stumbling over a few awkward lines of dialogue at some of the worst times possible. An image of humanity rendered without a brain as powerful as the one it’s been given is a compelling one, but this actual idea is realized as much as the concept car you ogle over in magazines and faux advertisements is ready for the general public.

Uhh. . .it isn’t.

One is left at the end credits with the nagging thought that if anyone else had gotten into the driver’s seat of this car, maybe we might have gone to some truly cool places.  While it is at times undeniably fun, Lucy fails to engage on a more significant level as it trades out far too much potential in exchange for the quick and easy thrill, a la mainstream Hollywood. In fact there is so much left to be desired at the time of the flaccid conclusion we wonder if there was anything here that didn’t go to waste.

Well, there’s the central character for one. Scarlett Johansson’s casting indeed becomes the film’s saving grace. She instantly affords Besson and his oft intentionally-stilted screenplay a level of gravitas that helps this story gain traction as it plods ever forward, simultaneously with purpose and without any at all. Lucy is a young woman with not much of an identity seen in the film’s open getting wrangled into a drug deal she never wanted to be a part of. Now handcuffed to a briefcase containing who-knows-what, she’s wrestled into a den of some threatening-looking Asians, led by Min-sik Choi’s mean old Mr. Jang. At such time she’s informed she’s now a drug mule for them, and is subsequently sent out to board a plane for somewhere else in the world. Poor girl. Or is she?

Lucy’s intellectual journey begins quiet, innocuously, as she first sets about finding out what has happened to her. After awakening in a hotel room with a bandaged abdomen and being told she’s carrying a pouch of an extremely potent substance, she makes moves quickly to rid herself of the package. The contents of the bag are a synthesized form of the natural chemicals found in a pregnant woman during late stages of her pregnancy. Their power’s asserted to be the necessary boost that helps form bone structure in the yet-to-be-born child. Needless to say, if this drug (labeled CPH-4 in the film) can do that to an infant, what would a quadruple dose do a fully-grown person?

This is going to be, annoyingly, as confronting and as experimental as the material ever feels like becoming. Instead of detailing all of the ways in which someone’s life could be enhanced — and perhaps just as compellingly, how it might be devalued, even destroyed — by the power of being able to access 100% of one’s brain power and an ever-expanding ocean of information, we get surface-level glimpses at what Besson thinks could happen, you know. . .theoretically.

There are, admittedly, a few drool-worthy visual sequences: Lucy physically manipulating radio and electromagnetic waves to suit her needs; her ability to multitask is on a level most Bluetooth-wearing businessmen would be sorely jealous of; and then there’s the traveling through time and space as a means of exploring what we are meant to be doing here on Earth (if anything at all). To reiterate, its all eye candy for the sake of providing action sequences that immediately yank us out of an intellectual discussion and into a pseudo-summer blockbuster.

Lucy is also guilty of devolving into a somewhat plodding affair. It oftentimes holds all of the enthusiasm of a tenured history professor dragging his students through another 8 A.M. lecture. Ironically enough, this is the very character Morgan Freeman has been hired to play. Professor Norman is first seen speaking extremely National Geographic-narratively to an audience of some nondescript understanding about the fact that people only are typically able to use 10% of their brain function. He stands there apologetically, regurgitating a script that begs us to ponder what we might be able to do if we just used all of our brain. The character, despite Freeman’s unyielding watchability, is a complete cardboard cutout of a layman pondering the true depth of the thinking man’s soul. I’m not going to feign pretense here — the movie is too stupid to be taken seriously.

Norman isn’t the problem, it’s Besson’s handling of what could have been an incredibly inspiring premise. For the second time in a row (that I have seen, anyway), Besson has taken a solid concept and fumbled it at the eleventh hour. Lucy, poised to become a modern sci-fi mind-bender, exists now as a crowd-pleasing slice of mainstream Hollywood entertainment, which should be taken as no insult. But it’s a significant step down from the thought-provoking journey into the essence of what it means to be human — something that this excellent performance from Johansson more often than not hints at.


Not a good time to become claustrophobic

2-5Recommendation: Starpower and an interesting premise unite to dupe audiences into watching a very run-of-the-mill action flick featuring some awe-inspiring visuals and a brief period of hectic violence. Lucy is not what is advertised, but unfortunately that was something that might have been foretold by the names of those involved behind the camera. I’d recommend this film on the basis of Johansson but not much else. There are some truly impressive moments but not enough of them carry through to warrant the kind of Roger Ebert two thumbs-up that I was looking to give here.

Rated: R

Running Time: 90 mins.

Quoted: “We never really die.”

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37 thoughts on “Lucy

  1. Pingback: The 2014 DigiBread Awards | digitalshortbread

    • Thanks very much Miss Mutant! Yeah, I won’t lie, Lucy was a bit of a disappointment for me but now looking back I feel a little foolish setting standards pretty high when I knew who was responsible for it. hahaha. a pattern of poor filmmaking continues in 2014 for Luc Besson. That said, it’ll make a decent rental for sure. Fire up some popcorn and have a good laugh at the inanity of it all 🙂


      • Ahh – I DID read & comment on this. Ouch! Yeah – a little harsh but I do agree with you. It has some major faults! Johansson saves it. I did have fun with it. After harsh reviews, I went in with low expectations. ; )


      • haha oh you know me, once the emotions start flying it’s really hard to stop them!!! 😀 Thanks for coming back around though, I’ve noticed a nice little influx in activity in the notifications menu. Second christmas!!!! Yay!


  2. I haven’t seen Lucy yet (though I’ll change that eventually) but I have to admit I expected more, given the awesomeness of the trailers. Such a shame if it doesn’t capitalize on its potential.


    • As me and Louie were. . e-hem. . .joshing around in the above comments. . . ( 😉 ), the key words here were ‘Luc Besson,’ since his streak of producing subpar experiences only continues here.

      To change the tune a bit, though, this is not as bad as it could have been nor is it as lame a film as The Family. There are definite ideas and some potential here but a lot of it is just inert.


    • There is, it’s a fun summer flick but I was looking for a lot more in this. With Johannson, Freeman and a semi-intellectual plot like this, Lucy winds up as something closer to Independence Day. . .but of the brain. Of the mind. hahahah! that sounds ridiculous.


    • Hey Chris, yeah man it really kind of let me down! Not sure if that was obvious, haha. I will say that you can do worse than this, but as far as living up to it’s really great potential is concerned, this one just doesn’t cut it. Maybe you’ll find something in it I didn’t, though. 😀


  3. Funny story (not really). I was super excited to see Lucy and planned to see it on opening night. On one faithful evening, I was at the movie theater and noticed a cool looking billboard for Lucy. My jaw dropped in horror as I came to a life-shattering realization.


    …Convinced my girlfriend that Hercules was the better choice and we went to that one instead. I’ll still see this eventually because…Johansson.

    Knowing Ebert, he would have loved this one. He is one dude that I’ve never agreed with on anything haha.


    • ahahah!! that was great delivery man.

      “. . .LUC BESSON.” Precisely. Within two words, this movie dropped my heart too. I wanted to really love this. There’s a certain silliness about it that makes the events much more tolerable, but knowing how much cooler and more intellectually challenging it could have been — I’m thinking like if this had been in the hands of Ron Howard or someone more dramatically accomplished, this could’ve been one of the year’s most interesting movies.

      It’s one of the easier to forget ones instead. I wanna see your take on Hercules. 🙂


    • Thank you once again man. Yes it’s a pity I had to report the bad news here. I might have been a bit harsh with the final score, but i still remember being more disappointed than thrilled in this thing. Besson’s earlier work is stuff I have yet to get into, but i want to, just to see what he was once capable of!


  4. Definitely agree with your assessment, though I think I came out a little bit more positively – mostly due to that crazy ending! You’re spot on about Freeman’s lecture, what on earth were those students/attendants doing? That shot of them typing in sync made me giggle.


    • haha i know right? That part was just one example of a kind of absent-minded (or not-paying-attention-to-detail-at-all) directing style that plagued this thing. *millions of fingers typing at once* fhklafkefjakl


    • Thanks buddy! I’ll agree that it is definitely crazy, Lucy goes to some whacky places. I’m also kind of impressed that the goofiness and Besson just recognizing how ridiculous the whole thing was lasted as long as it did, but to me it still really didn’t work. Not quite.


    • I actually was hooked by the trailer all th way through, it’s just reflecting back on his recent track record that made me paranoid at the 11th hour. About a week or two ago I started having real doubts about the quality of Lucy. And lo and behold, that feeling was more than just a hunch. 😀


    • Hahah Scarlett Johansson can be a bigger sell for some and not for others, I can see why she wouldn’t be enough to sell you here. She’s not quite enough to save this movie from stupidity, either. Lol. Thanks for reading man.


  5. Shame to hear it’s a bit average but I’m still keen to give this a go. Not sure why, really, Besson has been a real let down in recent years. Nice work!


    • Good idea man, may as well give it a look. You can see worse this weekend, that’s certainly true! Thanks for stopping by and saying hey Stu!


    • Luc Besson seems like he has been in a tailspin for awhile, I only cite The Family since I believe that was my intro to his work (admittedly, not my best entry point 🙂 ). And it was also the most frustrating thing in the world watching RDN and TLJ struggle so much in that film. It was awful. COuldn’t get the taste out of my mouth soon enough. But I understand Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element to be excellent, so I want to actually see what he was able to do at one point.

      This script did have promise man, it did. And it just didn’t come through on that promise.


  6. I thought Limitless (of which there is no avoiding the comparison) was OK, but nothing amazing. I think I will use 1% of my brain and give it a miss.


    • Hey Andy, that might be a good idea considering you weren’t so hot on Limitless, a movie I found far superior to this. Love Brad Cooper. Though I will be honest and say I don’t recall a whole lot from Limitless, either. But Lucy just loses its focus after awhile and it’s clear Besson doesn’t have a way to wrap this thing up in any real organized way.


  7. Your “Tastes Like” is spot-on–I could not stop thinking that the movie is like the child of Transcendence and Limitless…but, unfortunately, more like Transcendence in the overall quality. I gave Transcendence a B-. Lucy won’t be getting a higher grade, that’s for sure. What a shame that such great actors are in such an average movie! Good review, Tom!


    • Lucy I feel wasted almost as much potential as Transcendence. Most of the problem I had with Transcendence is it just didn’t make sense. And yeah, I guess it was boring and badly written, too. lol. That didn’t help. Lucy was just plain silly. But like I said I was actually predicting this since early summer. I just didn’t think Besson was going to be able to pull it out of the hat given his track record lately. That said, Lucy is also nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

      Thanks for reading!!!


  8. I’m not going to lie, I was kind of interested in this one. Looked like a weird acid trip of an action flick, too bad it wasn’t that great. I’ll probably never see it now.


    • I hate to report the negatives man, but in this case there’s hardly any hiding from them. Besson just isn’t the guy qualified to carry this kind of material, I’m sorry to say. Funny enough, his cast is perfectly fine and is not the problem..


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