LUCY (2014, Luc Besson)
I’d almost forgotten just how cool and breezy a good, tasteless, exploitive Luc Besson movie could be. After all, THE PROFESSIONAL is a mean, weirdly involving, and highly rewatchable barn-burner, while THE FIFTH ELEMENT is pretty much better than any STAR WARS movie, even if it has a shrieking Chris Tucker in drag and some overplayed comedy. And if the only thing LUCY lacks in comparison to those great ’90s Bessons is Gary Oldman as the heavy, then it ain’t half bad, especially when OLDBOY’s Choi Min-sik is here playing Oldman’s role. (And boy, his entrance is as good as Oldman conducting Beethoven through the New York flat).
Besson the writer does let down Besson the director, especially because the film becomes increasingly dependent on its dumb premise and also increasingly less interesting — the first act is the highlight here, from the white-knuckle hotel suspense sequence to Scarlett Johansson’s surprisingly tear-jerking single-take close-up on a phone call to her mother. But then the special effects take over, and things start to just get absurd for no good reason. I did like the idea that with increased intelligence comes a loss of humanity (no more fear, desire, pain, sympathy, etc.) — which makes the phone call even more touching — but it would have been nice to care even slightly about any humans in the film’s ludicrous third act. There isn’t even any reason Choi’s character should have still been alive beyond the first 40 minutes, but I’m always glad to have him on screen so I can’t complain.