Action Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: Lucy

February 3, 2015Ben MK

Fifty shades of grey matter...

Femme fatales and Luc Besson go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whether it's the gritty action of La Femme Nikita or the off-the-wall sci-fi theatrics of The Fifth Element, the 55-year-old French filmmaker is known for creating female characters who are both lethal and sexy, a trend that proudly lives on in the writer/director's latest, Lucy. In this sci-fi actioner, Scarlett Johansson plays a woman gifted with unfathomable mental powers, who faces off against a dangerous Asian crimelord. The result? Part The Fifth Element. Part Leon: The Professional. 100% Besson.


The Film Meet Lucy (Johansson), a twenty-something-year-old American student who lives in Taipei and has questionable taste in men. She also happens to share a first name in common with our earliest known human ancestor — which is fitting, as Lucy is about to become the first of her kind as well.

After her sleazy boyfriend dupes her into delivering a briefcase full of a potent designer drug called CPH4 to a ruthless underworld crime boss named Mr. Jang (Oldboy's Choi Min-sik), Lucy finds herself one of four drug mules forced to smuggle the product out of the country, via a pouch implanted into her lower stomach. But when she's subsequently roughed up by some of Jang's thugs, the pouch ruptures, releasing massive quantities of CPH4 into her system.

Rather than overdose, however, something fantastic happens to Lucy. The drug — a synthetic version of a naturally-occurring compound crucial to the development of human fetuses — reacts violently with the cells in her body, sending her into gravity-defying spasms. She loses consciousness and awakens transformed, able to access the previously unexplored neural pathways in her brain, which translates into some uncanny new abilities.

As her brain function steadily climbs to 100% — enabling her to manipulate radio waves, visualize the life force flowing through living organisms, and even view the entire cosmic history of the atoms around her — she reaches out to an eminent brain researcher, Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), for assistance. And when she realizes that she needs to absorb more of the drug to stay alive, she also enlists the help of Parisian police Captain Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) to track down the other three mules. Of course, she also has to contend with Jang and his army of black-suited gangsters, who are eager to retrieve the valuable product at any cost.

Lucy initially subdues her aggressors with physical force and lightning-quick reflexes, but as she taps into a greater percentage of her grey matter, she becomes adept at neutralizing opponents with a mere glance, effectively nullifying audiences' hopes of seeing Johansson slip into full-on Black Widow mode as well. Not that Lucy doesn't contain spurts of madcap action: a giddy Transporter-esque vehicle sequence and a frenetic gun battle culminating in a rocket launcher attack are particularly memorable. But Besson is more interested in unlocking the potential of the story's far-out sci-fi premise, full of musings on metaphysics and human existence.

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to Johansson's portrayal of the film's intellectually-supercharged heroine. As in her other recent sci-fi outing, Under the Skin, the actress imbues her character with an otherwordly quality, coming across as one part alien and one part robot. To her credit, however, she manages to keep Lucy's sense of humanity floating just beneath her zen-like exterior, allowing it to shine through on occasion. It makes all the difference in the world, for even as imaginative and bold as the movie is, it's Lucy's human element that serves to keep viewers cerebrally engaged.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Those wondering whether Lucy lives up to its full audiovisual potential on Blu-ray can rest assured, for Universal has gifted the film with an A/V presentation that's positively flawless from start to finish. Extraordinary visuals such as the time-lapse footage of Taipei's bustling cityscapes, a microscopic view of Lucy's cells and a macroscopic glimpse into the origins of the cosmos are painted in vibrant hues; individual strands of the actors' hair are visible with crystal clarity; and the blacks of the suits worn by the villains are as deep as a starless night sky. The disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack makes a stunning impression as well, providing ample directionality and LFE "oomph" to engross viewers in the film's highly-active soundstage, which includes everything from pulsing electronic, rock and opera music to the sound of car crashes, gunfire and even a dinosaur's roar.

Special Features In addition to the included DVD, UltraViolet and iTunes digital copies of the film, Universal's Blu-ray release features nearly half-an-hour of HD extras. The Evolution of Lucy is a 16-minute making-of piece, with Besson and company touching on topics such as the movie's origins, the vehicular stunts and shooting on-location in Taipei and Paris. Meanwhile, Cerebral Capacity: The True Science of Lucy is a 10-minute exploration of the science fact behind the film's fiction, with Besson, Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy and Dr. Yves Agid speaking about the human brain, its evolution and its possible future.

The Bottom Line Bold, imaginative and occasionally off-the-wall, Lucy is neither your prototypical action movie, nor is it your standard sci-fi fare. There's no doubt that the film's conclusion will leave some moviegoers scratching their heads, while others will find themselves grinning from ear to ear. What's not polarizing, however, is the quality of Universal's Blu-ray release, which presents the film with nothing short of perfect audio and video. Sadly, the disc's extras aren't nearly as comprehensive as they could have been, but all in all, Lucy on Blu-ray is simply a no-brainer.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on July 25th, 2014.

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