Lucy Film Review
Scarlett Johansson is one of the few guaranteed female pulls left in Hollywood and if her recent roles are anything to go by – she’s not happy playing it boring old human-being any more. Whether she’s an AI (Her), a superhero (Captain America 2) or turns her hand to an iconic alien scouting the streets of Glasgow (Under The Skin), Johansson has provided more note perfect performances this year than most. Add notable director Luc Besson to the mix and new film Lucy pitches itself.
Lucy is a reluctant Taiwanese drug mule who finds herself thrown into a higher state of Luc Besson’s consciousness after the drug CPH4 is leaked into her perfectly formed physique when a henchman of Korean über-gangster Mr Jang (Choi Min-sik) gives her a good old-fashioned henchman beating. What ensues is an exhilarating and often baffling ride through a tale of vengeance and metaphysical musings all through the conflicting styles of Hollywood action, Asian martial art and Euro-art house. And of course some stock footage of animals mating thrown in for good luck. Obviously.
The blue crystal drug heading into Europe’s clubs takes a detour into Lucy’s stomach which causes a brain capacity surge and she begins to reach superhuman realms. The concept of the brain only using 10% of it’s potential is at the forefront of the film’s plot and is therefore obviously comparable to Limitless. But Besson doesn’t stop there with grander notions of consciousness and the human condition comparable to The Matrix and technology-potential issues akin to the recent Transcendence.
If you tried hard enough, you could find the first two-thirds of the film silly and fun. The problem comes as Lucy reaches around 68% of her brain capacity when Lucy (the film) turns into farce and borders on pompous. Lucy’s plot is convoluted and nonsensical. The Koyaanisqatsi-esque montages of Earth’s roaring power and animals scouting prey are as subtle as a slow pat on the head. Logic goes out of the window and the forgiveable cheesy thrills turn into a pseudo-intellectual train wreck.
The plot also massively suffers when the turn into metaphysics occurs. The thriller aspect goes out of the window and the suspense is killed as Lucy (the character) becomes pretty much invincible and even immortal. The peril is completely nullified. There is a car chase that provides little tension and the action fails as Lucy has no need to become physical in her fighting.
It should be said that Johansson is excellent and gives the film an extra star all on her own. Lucy begins as a party girl student doing the last leg of her travels before heading home. She’s wide-eyed and vulnerable but Johansson always provides that little bit extra that means you know she’s just a tad savvy. The inevitable psychological fall post-drug binge is judged perfectly and the transition into femme-fatale is seamless. The supporting cast are a mixed bag with kingpin Choi Min-sik providing the right amount of sinister while Morgan Freeman’s Powerpoint presentation of a performance as brain specialist Professor Norman is as engaging as a Powerpoint presentation can get.
Besson tackles grand ideas that I think we’re meant to take seriously. But they’re all provided while his unquestionably stunning blonde female lead wears a black bra with a white strap top. The visuals are actually very good and when Besson plays it tongue and cheek, as some of Lucy undoubtedly is meant to be, the film is richer and more coherent for it. At times it even feels like a B-Movie. Particularly at the start with Borgen’s Pilou Asbæk donning a Stetson. This might have worked too if it weren’t for the attempts at juggling biology, philosophy and metaphysics with such an earnest eye.
During the film Lucy phones her mother to tell her that Lucy feels “space, air, vibrations, people, the rotation of the Earth…” etc. The audience will be forgiven if they’re as confused as her mother should have felt (Although for some reason she wasn’t baffled at all). Lucy will be remembered, but I’m just not sure what for. It does raise questions but ultimately the questions are mainly pointless. And the answer to every single one is probably, “no, Luc Besson. Don’t be so pompous.”
Lucy Film Review: 2 stars