Paul Greenwood's movie reviews - Lucy; What If; God Help The Girl; Into The Storm; Hide Your Smiling Faces; Two Days, One Night

Lucy (15, 89 mins)

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Scarlett Johansson stars in Lucy
Scarlett Johansson stars in Lucy

Lucy (15, 89 mins)

Director: Luc Besson

3 stars

A good year all round for Scarlett Johansson has recently got even better, as she scores her biggest ever solo hit with Lucy.

This thoroughly potty sci-fi thriller begins in Taiwan, where Johansson's eponymous Lucy is persuaded by a shady associate to deliver a suitcase to a hotel.

Almost nothing is explained to her or us in a tense and well-staged sequence where she's threatened by Korean thugs, which results in her being turned into a drug mule.

The package that has been inserted into her abdomen contains an experimental powder, but before she can transport it to Europe she accidentally ingests the drug that basically turns her into a superhero.

She gains powers, at first speed and strength, but before long she's coming out with X-Men stuff, as the drug unlocks a larger and larger percentage of her brain, enabling her to control matter and even other people.

Big ideas are tossed around during all of this, about using the full capacity of our brains, evolution and all the rest of it.

Meanwhile Morgan Freeman is on hand as a professor, most probably of brainiology, to help her with her new found skills and to explain the plot to us.

It's a demented ride that unfortunately starts to run out of track when it comes time to actually tell a fully-rounded story once we arrive in director Luc Besson's home turf of Paris.

He doesn't really have a handle on the material, just a lot of cool, generally mad ideas chucked in a blender, and the plot is really quite ramshackle and lacking in a focused goal.

It also never really properly explores the full possibilities of Lucy's powers outwith the confines of the Korean gangsters trying to track her down.

It's also far less of an action film than might have been suggested, and though Lucy might be being sold as Sca-Jo kicking ass, that's really a red herring.

A couple of sequences are nifty as she disarms her foes, but since her powers of telekinesis are so strong, she doesn't even need to fight anyone.

Johansson is great though, selling it even through the silliness in every guise she adopts, whether scared and naive at the beginning or once she's become a ruthless killing machine.

In the places it goes in its final third, Lucy is equal parts ambitious and completely bananas, and reasonable fun for stretches of its brisk running time.

Strong moments and a grisly sense of humour help a good deal, if only it could just have unlocked a little more of its potential.

See it if you liked: Limitless, Hanna, Nikita

What If (15, 102 mins)

Director: Michael Dowse

3 stars

Daniel Radcliffe takes a generally agreeable stab at a romantic lead, playing a Brit in Canada who is miserable after a break-up.

He meets Zoe Kazan at a party and falls for her, but since she has a boyfriend they become friends, albeit in standard rom-com style that evokes When Harry and Sally, deliberately or otherwise.

To its credit, What If doesn't try too hard, but still falls into typical genre traps, like the unusual names, quirky jobs and big gestures, making it more or less formulaic.

It does eventually manage to shake off its shackles, and Radcliffe and Kazan have a watchable charm that makes this nowhere near as odious as many recent rom-coms, though that's not quite a proper recommendation.

See it if you liked: That Awkward Moment, 500 Days of Summer, When Harry Met Sally

God Help the Girl (15, 112 mins)

Director: Stuart Murdoch

1 star

God Help the Girl is written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, and features a number of the band's songs, your tolerance for which may have quite a bearing on your tolerance for this musical romance.

It's filmed and set in Glasgow, mostly in the West End, and the city is certainly made to look nice, though annoyingly none of the three leads are Scottish.

Emily Browning runs away from a hospital where she's being treated for an eating disorder and meets up with a geeky singer and, trying to get her life back on track, takes to writing songs, most of which take proceedings from whimsical to downright tooth-itching.

It's all very flimsy and meandering, wanting to emulate Gregory's Girl in mood and style but falling woefully short thanks to deeply irritating characters, the tweeness of the music and the generally nausea-inducing tone.

See it if you liked: Sunshine on Leith, You Instead, Begin Again

Into the Storm (12A, 89 mins)

Director: Steven Quale

1 star

The found footage sub-genre turns its nefarious hand to the disaster movie, as a group of storm-chasers, a couple of teens and their teacher dad try to survive a massive tornado that is due to hit their small town.

In script and acting this is strictly on the level of the SyFy channel, only not cheesy enough to actually be fun, and the twister effects are far from cutting edge.

Having the characters film the action is a cheap shortcut so the filmmakers don't actually have to show you what's happening much of the time, but then the gimmick is abandoned when a wide shot is called for from a camera no-one in the film could possibly be operating.

Though it does restore a little bit of dignity with a storming (ha!) finale, people with cameras filming people with cameras filming people is moronic, and just because we live in a time when everyone films everything, that doesn't mean it should be turned into cinema.

See it if you liked: Twister, The Day After Tomorrow, Sharknado

Hide Your Smiling Faces (15, 80 mins)

Director: Daniel Patrick Carbone

2 stars

Eerily calm and handsomely filmed this small indie drama may be, but it's one shot through with well-worn clichés as a pair of teen brothers get into scrapes in small-town America.

It certainly captures the aimlessness and boredom of long empty days, but it's a shame that feeling is passed on to the audience too, with little in the early stages to grab the attention.

A tragedy is the catalyst for, well, not very much at all, as they continue with their wistful ways, and if anything it's just a little too authentic, filled out with improvised and mumbled conversations.

In the end it's a film far more interested in mood than content, as though Terrence Malick had directed Stand By Me and sucked all the joy out of it in the process.

See it if you liked: The Kings of Summer, Joe, Mud

Two Days, One Night (15, 95 mins)

Directors: Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne

4 stars

Marion Cotillard is a Belgian factory worker facing redundancy and a vote among her colleagues over whether they should receive a 1000 Euro bonus or she should keep her job.

Over the course of a weekend, she has to talk enough of them into voting for her, but is not coping well with it, having suffered from depression in the past.

That may seem like a slim framework, but it's one on which is built a gripping and universal story of domestic grind.

In truth it's much the same scene over and over again, as she talks to each of her co-workers in turn, but there's always something different in each confrontation, an unexpected reaction or about-face.

As a result the film begins to gnaw away at the viewer, thanks to the unflinching long takes employed by the Dardenne brothers that fully capture the predicament.

Combined with a powerhouse turn from Cotillard, zoning in on every moment of her struggle and anguish, it builds to near unbearable levels of tension.

See it if you liked: The Kid with a Bike, Rust and Bone, Rosetta

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