REVIEW: LUCY (2014)

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LUCY (2014)

Lucy is an audaciously ridiculous sci-fi/action flick from writer/director Luc Besson based on the myth that we only use 10% of our brain capacity and what would happen to one young woman, when that changes. Science aside, it is a flick that is so brazenly off the wall that it is very enjoyable on a popcorn fun level, despite how silly it all is… and Besson knows it.

The film tells the overblown story of student Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) who is tricked into delivering a briefcase to dangerous drug lord Kang (Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik). Kang decides to use the terrified young woman as a drug mule to smuggle a new synthetic drug to it’s distributors. When the young woman is roughed up by one of the thugs, the bag breaks open and the experimental drug leaks into her body and begins to increase her brain capacity transforming Lucy into a superhuman who can control more and more with her mind as her brain function increases. But, as she tries to find a way to deal with her new abilities by seeking help from renown scientist, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman)… Kang is in hot pursuit to get back his drugs and avenge himself on her. Car chases, pseudo science and telekinetic activity ensues.

Besson’s flicks as both director and producer can be very hit or miss, with The Fifth Element and The Professional being his best. Lucy isn’t quite up to those two but, if you can go with it’s outlandish premise, it can be a fun 90 minutes of action and Star Trek level sci-fi. There is plenty of action throughout and a lot of colorful SPFX sequences too, especially the more powerful Lucy becomes and she gains control over the people and things around her. Besson is having a good time with his premise and let’s you know this is all in fun by adding in snippets of stock footage to accent what is going on on-screen, such as footage of a leopard stalking it’s prey inter-spliced with Lucy walking into the hotel to deliver the briefcase. It’s silly but, that’s the point. Mixed in with the silliness and the outrageous science techno-babble, Besson gives us some surprisingly bloody violence with a few fast-paced car chases and ballistic shoot-outs that he does do very well and always has. The action and FX are all top notch and despite the ridiculousness of the whole thing, the cast take it very seriously too and it helps us to go along with it as much as we do.

As for that cast, it’s Johansson’s show and she gives a very good performance as a woman coming to terms with her transformation into something more then human. She handles the action scenes well and in the brief time before her transformation, she gives us a glimpse of a very likable, if not slightly ditzy young woman. We continue to like Lucy even after she transforms into logical, uber-Spock/Carrie and stick with her even as she becomes more emotionally detached from the world. Besson appears to like strong female characters in his movies and Lucy is no different. Freeman is good, as always, creating a vastly intelligent man who meets Lucy and is drawn back into the boyish sense of wonder that probably got him interested in science to begin with. It’s fun to watch him stare in awe at Lucy as she does her telekinetic thing and the actor is charming as ever. Min-sik is a typical, vicious drug lord character but, does it well, as does Amr Waked who presents a noble policeman in his Del Rio, a cop who gets drawn into being Lucy’s ‘partner’. When dealing with a silly story like this, a solid cast goes along way in getting us to buy it, at least until the movie is over and we start thinking about it… but, by then it’s too late, we’ve had a fun time.

So, overall I liked Lucy. It’s outrageously ridiculous but, Besson knows it and keeps things moving fast and furious enough to keep us from thinking too much about it. It’s colorful, crazy and filled with a lot of action and SPFX and with a strong turn by Scarlett Johansson who really has come into her own with her performances in recent flicks like Don Jon, Her and Under The Skin. Sure when it sinks in, you realize what a dumb movie it is, but, for the rapid-fire 90 minutes that it’s blasting it’s action and imagery at you, it’s a bloody fun popcorn flick that knows exactly how ridiculous it is and runs with it. Overall, kinda forgettable?… maybe… a lot of fun?… yes, it is.

3 Scarletts.

don jon rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)

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I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)

Brutally violent Korean thriller is well made and has many effective and intense sequences, though one may have a hard time with the direction this blood soaked thriller takes one of it’s main characters, although the moral breakdown of that character is basically the point of Park Hoon-jung’s script. The story finds special intelligence agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) seeking revenge against serial killer Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) who brutally murders his pregnant fiancé. The police can’t pin the crime on him, but Soo-hyun goes outside the law to get proof and track him down. Instead of killing him or turning the vile Kyung-chul in, he let’s him go and continues to track him while the sicko continues to kill, only so Soo-hyun can continually attack him, cause him pain, then let him go again. While the causing him pain and suffering part… Kyung-chul is a monster and deserves it… makes sense,it’s hard to believe Soo-hyun would allow him to continue having the opportunity to keep killing others. Many innocents die so Soo-hyun can play his game of vengeful cat and mouse and he seems like too good a man to allow the murder of innocent people, just so he can satisfy his thirst for revenge despite his loss and pain. This strategy also allows Kyung-chul to have the opportunity to turn the tables as he increasingly becomes amused with the game of the hunt and decides to play along.

Still, it does give Director Ji-woon Kim the chance to graphically show us the depths to which people can sink when driven by grief and revenge, as the difference between Soo-hyun and Kyung-chul blurs increasingly with each savagely violent set piece. Kim crafts quite an intense downward spiral for his main protagonist as Soo learns how to be a monster from a man who enjoys being one. Despite the lapses in logic, the game between hunter and prey does get quite involving. The acting is very good from it’s cast, especially from it’s two intense leads, Lee and Choi, and the cinematography can be beautiful despite the gruesome nature of the film.

An interesting movie if you can stomach the violence and the film does get quite graphic and brutal. How much you are willing to believe a good, loving man can be driven to become a vicious monster to gain revenge, will determine how much you can go along with it’s story. The film is fascinating, despite not totally convincing one that an honorable man like Soo-hyun would allow so many innocents to be harmed, just so he could play games with the dangerous Kyung-chul. Then again, that seems to be the whole point of this grim but involving thriller…that revenge may not be worth the price it extracts from one’s soul. Highly but cautiously recommended as this is a brutally violent and intense thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) ball peen hammers.

I Saw The Devil rating

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