Tuesday, August 5, 2014


"Lucy, You Got Some 'Splainin' To Do!"
Giving It Your Full 10% (Who Put the Scar in ScarJo?)

Luc Besson is France's "high concept" director (and when I say "high concept" I mean that his movies are made up of interesting nuggets (and sometimes only a memorable line of dialog, ala Taken) and pads it out with a lot of obfuscation and action to fatten out the movie to feature-length.

His movies tend to be a bit on the loutish side, but he does, rather refreshingly, pay equal attention to the ladies. Movies like La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, The Messenger, even The Fifth Element had strong female characters, and his last couple projects (directing, he's only supervising the "Transporter" and "Taken" series), barely released in the States were The Lady and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (which, I have to say, looks interesting). They tanked at the box-office here, so it's only natural that he go back to his action roots, this time with the latest addition to The Unlikely Action Heroes Club (after Bruce Willis, Nicholas Cage, and Liam Neeson), Scarlett Johansson, whose last few roles, perhaps out of career frustration in a male-dominated industry, have consisted of characters that are barely human.

Lucy (Scarlett Johannson) being blinkerdly
Lucy (just "Lucy"—even her passport doesn't have a last name) is an American wandering around Taiwan with a loser named Richard (Pilou Asbæk), who is all "I love you, baby, do this for me, just one more thing..."  The "thing" he wants her to do is take a briefcase into an office building and ask for a "Mr. Jang." When Lucy asks what is in the briefcase, he says "paperwork..." non-committally.

That's some paperwork—one of J.D. Salinger's unpublished manuscripts, maybe. Because once Richard proves his ultimate douche-baggery and hand-cuffs her to the briefcase, things start to go very, very wrong.  She's confronted by a swarthy band of body-guards—he's killed (no loss)—and she is dragged before Jang (Min Sik-Choi) who's just finished "Scarfacing" an associate in another room. At gun-point, Lucy is forced to open the briefcase (while Jang and the bodyguards protect themselves in another room) and she finds...explosives? That shrieking plutonium from Kiss Me Deadly? A better script?

No. She finds four zip-lock bags of spangly blue micro-crystals, that, when huffed by the most extreme of junkies, turns him into a laughing psycho. She is then knocked out.

Cut to Morgan Freeman
(which is the way the world should work, actually). He plays Professor Samuel Norman in the middle of a perfectly-timed lecture (the class is, evidently, Exposition 101) about how human beings only use 10% of their brains (which isn't true, but he evidently has tenure, so no one argues with him). What would happen, he postulates, if human beings developed themselves to use 20% (like dolphins do*)...even (dare I say it?) 100%...of their brains? One suspects that 1) they would call "bullshit" on Professor Norman or 2) probably have nothing to do with this movie and build a better mouse-trap—a shot of which is inserted.  

I should mention that Besson has all sorts of fun tossing in "found footage" throughout the movie of animals in their natural habitat and other things that comment on the film's story—for example, when those bodyguards start advancing on Lucy, we get many shots of leopards hunting gazelles, she being the gazelle, they being the leopards, if I remember the lecture on "analogies" in film-class.

Lucy has something on her mind
Lucy wakes up and finds herself in a hotel room with an incision in her abdomen; she and three other luckless souls are to be "mules" smuggling the bags of crystals surgically implanted within them through customs to four different countries.

No one has heard about body-scanners, I guess.
The picture's not flipped.  Lucy is on the ceiling during her drug freak-out.
The question is: "why?"  Your brain will need to be at least 50% capacity to answer.
Lucy draws the short straw and the short trip, being sent to Korea, where a little bit of attitude gets her beaten and kicked repeatedly in the stomach. Bad move, that, especially for drug-runners who (you would think) know the drugs are being hidden in her stomach, so that (ya know?) they can retrieve them. If humans are only using 10% of their brains, these guys are low in the single-digit capacity. The bag leaks the drug (called CPH4, probably for "Cheap Plot Hook") into Lucy's body, which causes Lucy to lurch around the room, including up the walls and across the ceiling—not sure why this might happen, but it looks interesting—her eyes incongruously going cat-like, lizard, and snake (but fortunately not "goat," because that would be just creepy).
It becomes apparent (because large letters appear on the screen saying "20%") that the Professor Norman lecture was not just some diversion, but is telling us that this CPH4 stuff is probably juicing Lucy's brain to expand its capacity. How does she use this gift? By seducing one of her guards, breaking his arm, and grabbing handfuls of weaponry that she instantly has total mastery of, making her way to a hospital and coercing the surgeon on call to get the bag out of her stomach without anesthesia (she doesn't need any, chatting with her Mother on the phone while she's being gut-slit). This after shooting the surgeon's patient dead because "you couldn't save him, anyway." That expanded brain-power gives her a great opportunity in insurance risk-management.
Guns don't kill people.  SMART people kill people.
All good, huh? Not really. Lucy flies to Paris to talk to Professor Norman about this brain-power stuff and alert the French police (led by Amr Waked) to where the other "mules" are going. Her reasons are purely for self-interest—when the drug starts to wear off, Lucy starts to disintegrate, losing her form—something that most things can do with less than 1% brain capability. She chows down on the remaining crystals and gets it together in time to disembark the plane.
Lucy demonstrates the true meaning of the phrase "On the other hand.."
Most of the rest of the movie is a demonstration reel for CPH4 and special effects houses. We get to see the full-range of what Lucy can do when she puts her mind to it—changing her hair color, growing extra appendages, displaying various forms of telekinesis, psychokinesis, and being able to discern all sorts of spectra, including in one impressive display, being able to read cell-phone conversations by picking them out of the ether. I can just imagine Edward Snowden watching this movie and choking on his popcorn. All this ability to change and she still looks like Scarlett Johansson, even in "disguise."
Before it's all over, she'll be teleporting and traveling through time to not much end. After all, Bresson the scriptwriter is still operating at only 10% of his potential, and thus, the film's.

Lucy does the NSA a million times better:  tapping into and reading everybody's
cell-phone calls and texts.  Probably still has a hard time figuring
out a phone-bill, though.

What is most amusing about all this, is that by the time the film has run its course, you realize that it would make a great prequel (on a double bill, if such things still existed) for Her, in which Johansson portrayed an operating system. Who knows, maybe she's seeing Johnny Depp from Transcendence—except NO ONE saw Johnny Depp in Transcendence.

The movie ends with Johansson intoning: "Life was given to us a billion years ago. Now you know what you can do with it."

Yeah, you know what you can do with it, too.

* Probably do 10 shows a day at Seaworld, I presume...

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