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Lucy – Review

14 Aug

Luc Besson is one of those film makers that you either love or hate, or don’t even realize who he is and how many movies you’ve actually seen that he’s been involved with. Personally, I think he’s great. Many of his action films that he either wrote, produced, directed or any combination of the three are normally very enjoyable in that switch your brain off kind of way. It is true, however, that he hasn’t really made an “excellent” film since the days of The Professional and La Femme Nikita, and Lucy certainly isn’t breaking that pattern. I will say that, like The Family and The Transporter and Taken, this is a fun movie that you definitely need to turn off for and just buckle in for the ride.

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Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is not having a good day what with being pressured by her boyfriend to be the middle man during a transaction with the sadistic Korean drug lord, Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). The deal goes down well, but now Lucy is left in the custody of Mr. Jang to serve as a mule in order to get Jang’s new drug into the hands of people all over the world. What Jang wasn’t counting one was the surgically implanted drug packet breaking inside Lucy’s stomach and barraging her with the effects. Soon, Lucy begins evolving into something more than the human capacity could possibly handle and teams up with the world renowned psychologist Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) and French police captain Pierre (Amr Waked) to figure out how to stop her brain from overloading her body’s nervous system, but also to get her revenge on Mr. Jang for causing all of this in the first place.

Before anyone even needs to say anything, of course this movie’s premise is total bullshit. It’s been proven that humans use more than 10% of our brain capacity leaving that idea to be nothing more than an outdated theory. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a really cool idea for a movie. In fact, Lucy is pretty similar in idea to the 2011 film Limitless starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. Think of Lucy as Limitless on steroids. There’s plenty of really cool action in this movie and some pretty neat special effects. Plus, Scarlett Johansson, who has already shown this in the multiple Marvel films she’s been in, can be a complete badass if the occasion calls for it. It’s everything you’d expect from a Luc Besson movie, with a bit of a philosophical twist.

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One thing I do have to complain briefly about is the time spent in between all of the cool things. The gripe I have with Besson’s films, save for one or two, is that he knows how to craft really cool ideas and scenes that make for a memorable movie, but the down time in these movies really leave something to be desired. This is true also with Lucy even though there isn’t a whole lot of down time to be had. When there is, however, it is anything but interesting and I found my mind drifting when I should have been paying attention. Also, it’s kind of odd to have philosophical discussions in movies like this, especially when the premise is already complete ludicrous. I found the attempts at philosophy a little heavy handed and unnecessary. All you need to do for this movie is check your brain at the door and don’t listen to anything deep Besson wants you to hear. This is an action movie to the core and that’s it.

After saying all that, I really do have to say that this is a totally kick ass movie. I’ve liked it a little more since I’ve seen it, even though I don’t think I’m ever going to really love the movie. There’s one scene in particular where Lucy, without aiming at all, shoots through a door a few times, almost with precision. I knew what was going to happen, but it was so cool to see the accurate effects of her shooting even through the hard wood door. The movie is filled with awesome scenes like that, and it’s so much fun to watch Lucy evolve more and more, making her enemies nothing compared to her. Besson really outdid himself on the cool factor for this film.

Lucy isn’t particularly a great film, but in terms of summer popcorn fun, you can’t really go wrong here. I’ve heard a lot of talk about how the movie doesn’t really have a point and the science doesn’t even make sense. It makes me wonder when people forgot that going to the movies was supposed to offer a couple hours of FUN. Notice the emphasis on fun. To those of you who know how to have a good time at the movies and check your brain at the door, Lucy will provide you with some quick and memorable entertainment, despite its major scientific and narrative flaws. For those of you who can’t get the sticks out of your asses, may I offer you some Godard and tea?

 

Nikita – Review

31 Oct

Who would have thought that when Luc Besson made this French action thriller in 1990 that it would become a phenomenon spawning an American and Japanese remake along with a television spin off. We can’t forget where it all began, and this is it. It’s an action movie with more heart and soul than one may think, and this may, unfortunately, lead people to believe that Nikita is boring. They couldn’t be more wrong.

After murdering a p0lice officer during a robbery gone awry, drug addict Nikita (Anne Parillaud) has the choice of either death or committing herself to the French government and work for them as a sleeper agent. She trains in a secret facility with her mentor Bob (Tchèky Karyo) and after years of training is released back into the world with a code name: Josephine. She soon sparks a relationship with an unassuming Marco (Jean-Hughes Anglade), but is just a suddenly called for assignment, sending her now stable life careening out of control.

This movie is written and directed by Luc Besson, who I would call a powerhouse of the action genre having directed films such as Leon: The Professional and written The Transporter series, Taken, and From Paris with Love. This is one of his older movies, but it still helped redefine a genre after the macho action films of the 80s. Audiences were treated to a different kind of hero in Nikita, a social misfit turned sleeper agent who is a woman. That’s the big thing. Gun toting women weren’t the norm at this point in time. In this way, Nikita can be seen as inspiration for films like Kill Bill. In that light, much respect has to be given to this film.

 

Nikita is special, though, for how it handles the story. Instead of the movie being all about Nikita going into various foreign locales and shooting anything that moves, the viewer gets a character study. The character arc is immense. A drug addict becomes an agent who then yearns for a normal life. It was great watching a character as deep as this change and progress as the story went along at it’s relatively slow pace. It gave me a lot to think about when it comes to the actual stress of classified government work, the treatment of these employees, and the ethics behind their missions.

With this impressive character arc comes an impressive performances and memorable action set pieces. Anne Parillaud knocks it out of the park giving, I think, on of the best performances in an action movie. She’s both funny and disturbed, but if you want to talk disturbed, look no further than Jean Reno as Victor the Cleaner. He is brutally violent and doesn’t seem to be affected by it. You’ll see him in a list of best action characters if I’m to ever make one.

 

The action scenes are great without being crazy. While they aren’t totally down to earth, they do stay in a realm of realism that isn’t very common in modern action movies. There is lots of shooting and some blood, but never is there ridiculous combat and jumping off walls. It gave the film a more realistic tone that worked better with the themes and the characters. But don’t get me wrong. I love over the top action.

Nikita is an action movie that surpasses most. It is intelligent, emotional, and real. Don’t mistake the slow pace as boring. If you look into the characters and invest yourself into the plot, you will have a great time with this movie. If all you want is gunplay and explosions, the look to something else. This is a thinker’s action movie that proves the Luc Besson is this genre’s master story teller.