By Will Ashton
In a season filled with movies about giant fighting robots, mutated people/lizards and talking apes, to call Lucy the silliest movie of the summer is a bold claim. But it is true. Lucy, the new movie from Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element) is the most batshit crazy mainstream movie to be released this summer.
The best way to describe this movie is this: Imagine if Besson watched Limitless, took two handfuls of LSD, wrote a script non-stop for 12 hours and then convinced A/B-list stars Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman to star in it. That is the best possible description I can give for what madness I saw on the screen. Without getting into spoilers, of course.
Seriously, I have seen anime that was draped in more logic and sense than Lucy, and that is not an exaggeration. I don’t even watch that much anime either. Now, I am no stranger to straight up goofy movies, and I enjoy them from time to time. For years, I have praised the crazy, highball energy of the Crank movies, and I also quite like David Lynch, Michel Gondry and Jean-Pierre Jeunet films, along with a countless number of impressively stupid videos on YouTube.
But Lucy walks a fine line throughout of being enjoyable mindless fun and just being straight-faced bonkers, to the point that the movie gets less and less fun and more and more foolish. The biggest problem here is that it is unclear what Besson’s motivations are. Does he know that his ideas are psychotic and just wants us to enjoy the ride? Or does he believe—even just a little bit—that there is some form of crazy logic here?
It’s unclear, because the movie constantly bounces between scenes of goofy action and scenes of Freeman talking scientific mumbo-jumbo about the lack of limitations of the unfenced mind. Its uneven approach to its wackiness speaks for a film that tries to have its cake and eat it too, only to realize that its cake has turned into a talking elephant. And for the record, those “mumbo-jumbo” scenes are among my favorite in the movie, so I am not trying to put them down.
When it comes to action, you could do worst than Lucy. There is an impressively choreographed and shot fast-paced car scene here that is a lot of fun, just before it gets swallowed up in action just too silly to work. There are also signs throughout proving that—while Besson may have lost his goddamn mind—he still knows a thing or two about making action.
There are also other things that work in the movie’s favor. As the titular lead, Johansson does a fine job, making the character more believable than it has any right to be. Freeman is in cruise control mode here, but it is always nice to see him on screen. Plus, in an unexpected appearance, Oldboy’s Min-sik Choi pops up here and makes a great villain—as one would expect or know if they saw I Saw the Devil—giving the movie its best performance.
Additionally, the movie has a great sense of pacing; never once slowing down, even when developing its bonkers story or thin characters. But, one of the movie’s biggest hold ups is that Lucy, as a character, isn’t even all that likable. At first, before her transformation, she is too helpless to root for, and after she makes her transformation, she is so self-centered and belligerent to cheer for either.
For example, after she gets her powers, she shoots a man just because he doesn’t speak English. Additionally, later on when she is trying to remove a pack of drugs from her stomach, she shoots an innocent patient in the hospital just so the doctors can operate on her instead.
I could post other examples, but the point is that, even with a kick-ass female lead, if you don’t like her or want her to succeed, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Which is a double shame, because Lucy proves she is actually one of the better badass female leads in an action movies in some time.
If people thought Under the Skin was going to be the craziest movie ScarJo was going to be in this year, they are in for a surprise. But where that movie was abstract, it still had a point, and always was executed with haunting beauty and with unsettling mood and tone that matched what it was trying to execute. Besides some strong action beats and a good set-up, Lucy seems too contend on being as crazy as possible that. While it can be fun at times to see how stupid it gets, it never really resonates, and kind of feels like a mess.
I really dig the fact that, even with her status as the most beautiful actress in Hollywood and her A-level fame, Johansson is willing to push herself onto such offbeat products like Under the Skin, this and Her. But, as much as I like those two other movies, I just couldn’t get as wrapped up in this movie’s quest for over-energized lunacy. By the time that the credits rolled on Lucy, I was in awe, but not because I was so blown away by the movie, or so confounded by how terrible it was. I was just amazed that a movie like that was even made on this caliber.
By no stretch of the imagination, Lucy is the silliest, craziest and most undoubtedly preposterous movie I have seen, not just this summer but also, this year. It is the kind of film that needs to be seen to be believed, but I’m not sure that it is a movie that even needs to be seen. At the end of the day, I can’t really say that I full out enjoyed it, even on a so-silly-it-works level. Hell, I don’t even know if I was entertained. I don’t think I have been this genuinely conflicted on a movie since Spring Breakers, but I seem to follow in line with my opinion on that movie.
There is no doubt in my mind that Lucy will find an audience of its own in some way, shape or form. Just because there are always people that gravitate to this level of silliness. For better or for worse, however, it was a movie that constantly kept me guessing. But just to see how fucking ludicrous it would get with each passing moment. For what it’s worth, that is saying something.
Rating: C+….I guess