LUC BESSON’s new globe-hopping brain-power thriller veers from exciting and unpredictable to weird and disappointing despite its excellent central performance
Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-Sik
Cert 15, 90mins
Who needs an expensive comic book property to create a superhero? Not Luc Besson, director-mogul behind Leon, The Fifth Element and the Taken franchise.
Marking a relative return to form after his last directorial effort, the Robert de Niro crime comedy The Family, Besson’s Lucy is an entertainingly nutty action thriller which transforms a good-time American girl (Scarlett Johansson) into Wonder Woman.
This after she accidentally ingests a whopping dose of an illegal new drug which allows her to access an increasing percentage of her brain power.
Not only does she morph into a kick-ass heroine with absolute mastery over her environment (levitating people and objects) but, rather oddly, into a kind of all-knowing goddess in ever-deepening communion with nature; Besson intercuts the car chases and gun fights with frequent nature-documentary-style footage.
“I feel everything” she tells her mother in a telephone call home from Taiwan where she’s a student. “The rotation of the earth, the blood in my veins…” She can even recall the sight, sounds and, er, tastes of her infancy as she recollects the flavor of her mother’s breast milk.
She’s Wonder Woman with a PhD and seeks out a Paris-based academic, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), to pass on her first hand experience of the extraordinary potential of the human brain. “All this knowledge is exploding inside my brain. I have to pass it on” she says.
Well, since we’re talking about the brain it’s the rather schizophrenic nature of the picture which is frustrating.
Before Lucy goes off the deep end she’s a relatable, sympathetic heroine. Her fault is to find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, unwittingly getting mixed up with some drug-trafficking Korean nasties.
There are some tense, darkly funny moments as she comes up against evil crime boss Mr Jang (Choi Min-sik) while Brit actor Julian Rhind-Tutt puts in a droll appearance as Mr Jang’s chirpy acolyte.
Lucy learns she’s being used as a mule, along with a few other hapless Westerners, to transport a new drug to Europe; packets of the blue pills are sewn into their stomachs.
It’s exciting and unpredictable, especially when Lucy starts to develop super-powers after accidentally ingesting her cargo. The downtrodden captive gets her revenge!
However, the more her brain power expands, the less human she becomes and the less interesting, fun and vulnerable. “I don’t feel pain, fear, desire” she intones.
Instead, she transforms into a kind of robotic Earth Mother, spouting gobbledygook about the majesty the universe. The bad guys are still on her case, following her to Paris, but they are mere irritants to be swatted away; Lucy’s mind is on much higher matters. Like the meaning of life.
It’s all deeply weird and rather disappointing after the thrilling first half but Johansson is excellent and there’s solid support from Morgan Freeman having a good stab at trying to making sense of it all while heroically keeping a straight face.
Go with it and you might get a head rush.