Lucy: when a package of drugs erupts in her guts it begins to unlock the full capacity of Lucy’s brain, turning her into a superhuman. This is a beautiful film to take in; full of colourful, poppy, bright, neon visuals of everything from single cells to galaxies, the big bang to the future (in 85 mins!!) and huge sweeping shots of cities, cultures, and continents reminiscent of something like Koyaanisqatsi. To put it simply – Lucy is a full on Eye Boner, and the CGI shots in particular are world-class. The biggest argument against the film is that the ‘10% of the brain myth’ has been debunked… I don’t hear anyone letting the dodgy science of Jurassic World, or tech of the Avengers, or gravity in the Fast franchise ruin those films. This is Science FICTION; get off your high horse and eat a buffet of dicks. The idea makes for an interesting film, especially if you dig the ongoing next leap in intelligence debate. Scarlett – who is in almost every shot – is hypnotising as an increasingly cold and calculating being, but the real star is Besson who’s back on top form, taking a bunch of chaotic elements, making them look great, then slotting them together into an exciting and ambitious narrative. On paper Lucy’s individual components are everything I love about modern cinema; a great ‘world cinema’ director, Korean actors, bombastic action, high-concept / big ideas, colourful & stylish (Cinéma Du Look), and entertaining… what more could anybody want? It’s Limitless for Sci-Fi nerds; it’s infinitely more engrossing that the Tree of Shite; it’s arguably the best Sci Fi film since The Matrix. Although the film goes ‘all in’ with a single divisive plot point – and whether you buy in to it or not – there’s no denying that Lucy is (at the very least) enthralling and entertaining. Personally, I’d put this down as Besson’s masterpiece
Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle): every man struggles for himself in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Shot entirely in Black and White and with no dialogue, this definitely a unique and memorable style. It looks great: the sets & costumes feel genuinely post-apocalyptic, and the actors are all interesting and peculiar, with emotive faces that lend themselves to silent film – each character’s eyes in particular tells you more than an hour of dialogue could. Despite such a grim vision of the future, there’s a healthy serving of dry, but humanistic, moments of humour and joy to provide some comic relief – the blow up doll piece is hilarious, and the “Hello” scene is cinema gold. Yet, as visually appealing and interesting as the film is, it’s equally stereotypically ‘French arthouse‘ and feels dragged out, disjointed, and pretentious at various points. Another downside is the jazz-lounge soundtrack, which is hideously dated – and with no dialogue, makes for such a crucial part of the film. For being Luc Besson‘s first film, it’s a surprisingly accurate blueprint for his career so far: ambitious, interesting, looks great, but there’s not much under the bonnet.
Lockout: a wrongly convicted man is made to enter a maximum security prison, mid-riot, in space, and rescue the president’s daughter, thus winning a pardon. No, it doesn’t feature Snake Plissken, but bulked up Guy Pearce‘s supercop ‘Snow’ gives the character a good run for his money; he entertains and kicks ass in equal measures, and despite clearly having fun, he’s well above and beyond what is required in an action film this silly. It’s not just Pearce, as the two main baddies in Vincent Regain and Joseph Gilgun (despite the terrible Scottish accents) are a proper Dastardly and Muttley duo, both watchable yet nasty. Other than being set in space this has every other cliché in the action/cop genre; It’s physics-defying dumbness is laughable; it’s needlessly bookended by a boring & unnecessary briefcase / conspiracy side-story; and some really good action scenes are let down by a couple of ultra-cheap, poorly handled bouts of big, fast, loud, fuzzy CGI that are nothing but disorienting. Despite these snags, EuropaCorp delivers another film that punches way above its weight for a $20M sci-fi action picture. While it’s pretty much Escape from New York in space, Lockout is every bit as action-packed and blockbusterly satisfying as it looks, with a surprisingly entertaining cast, decent director, and a few good laughs along the way. I liked it, and oddly enough, so did my lady.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec: Based on the Jacques Tardi comic books, this follows a female adventurer in 1911 Paris who is traveling the world to find a cure for her comatose’d sister. With pterodactyls, mummies, bandits, hunters and a ton of other stuff, it’s all a bit crazy – landing as a PG adventure not a million miles from Indiana Jones / Jumanji / The Mummy etc… Louise Bourgoin is a great match for the quirky, strong, sexy, determined, action heroine, and to top it all of, out of nowhere… BOOM… nude bath scene (in a kids film!?!?). With Luc Besson behind the camera the film’s in good hands, it’s executed interestingly, but even he couldn’t put all of the randomness together seamlessly. It’s French, it’s crazy, and it’s quite an enjoyable adventure romp despite the absurdity.
District 13: It’s the near future and entire urban areas of an unstable Paris are walled off to contain the scum! From the very first frame, this film’s an insane mix of athleticism, action, martial arts and physical prowess. The jaw-dropping breakneck action is complemented spectacularly with ultra-slick editing (that show’s every single jump clearly from start to finish) and pounding Euro techno/grime music. While the action’s totally nuts, it ends up being used quite sparsely and never really surpasses the opening chase scene. Much of the run-time is beefed up with huge sections of socio-political story, clearly rooted in modern France, which makes the story pretty believable. Despite there being no ‘real’ actors everyone’s good to watch and the two main guys in particular are solid – the theory Vs reality angle makes for some great back-and-forth. The style and feel are 100% gritty, urban, French and in-yer-face. Everything’s aimed at the guys, from the uber macho gangsters right down to the grotesque super sports cars. With the Taken director behind the camera and Luc Besson as producer you’re in good hands here, and although this goes down in most people’s books as ‘that parkour film’ it shouldn’t be overlooked, as District 13 winds up being a very enjoyable, solid action flick with remarkable stunts and a worthy & interesting story to match.
Leon: story of a hitman that takes a 12 year-old under his wing, trains her up and slowly becomes more human in the process. Leon’s pretty complex: made out to be one of the most badass men in the history of cinema in the action scenes, yet comes across as quite coy and simple in others. Gary Oldman’s intense villain is a bit over-acted. The original score dominates many of the scenes and despite being set in New York it’s unmistakably French & has loads of cheeky trademark Besson bits. My favourite aspect of this film is that it plays on the peculiarities and mystique of hitmen / assassins: they come from nowhere, vanish into thin air, can take out swat teams and bodyguards… and scope out every new location. Upon re-watching this for the first time in years it wasn’t as awesome as I remember, hasn’t really aged well (totally 80s) and the plot’s full of massive holes, not to mention severe bouts of police malpractice. It can’t really pass as an action flick because there’s only two action scenes, and as mentioned the story’s pretty flawed. What’s left is a piece of trademark Besson fantasy that’s good, but seems to enjoy an uncannily large ‘best film ever’ reputation.