Copyright © 2014 by Universal Pictures
After a night of partying, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced by her boyfriend, Richard (Pilou Asbæk) to deliver a briefcase containing a valuable but illegal substance known as CPH4 to Mr Jang (Choi Min-sik), the leader of a Korean mob. Reluctantly, she is made to transport the drugs along with three other volunteers. When the bag that is sewn into Lucy’s stomach is broken, she begins experiencing heightened strength and intelligence while the acceleration in brain function enables her to develop a psychic and empathetic connection to everyone around her. The now unstoppable vigilante easily exacts revenge on her assailants but knowing her cerebral capacity is reaching to its maximum, she seeks Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) through mind travel to comprehend the rapid transformation her body is facing and its side effects.
Hailed as ‘the most Hollywood of French film makers’, Luc Besson’s filmography encapsulates a string of high-octane actioners that not only did big business all over Europe but had profitable runs in the United States as well. The moniker rings true to this prolific visionary since ‘Léon: The Professional’ became the first of many English language hits to transcend expectations on both sides of the Atlantic and is a turning point for youthful Natalie Portman’s meteoric rise to stardom.
Not unlike ‘The Fifth Element’ (the highest grossing motion picture from France for 16 years until ‘The Intouchables’ surpassed it in 2011), ‘Lucy’ is borne out of the same creative mold that dares to defy regular action and science fiction tropes, culminating in a pseudo-philosophical exercise of Darwinian proportions. At a trim running time, Besson opts for quick cuts, alternating between Lucy’s hostile situation and Professor Norman’s lecture.
It effectively substantiates the connection of human evolution and actual footages are interspersed for dramatic profundity. The final say of what ‘Lucy’ is trying to achieve seems to be as polarising as the audiences who were in the same showing as I am (a full house by the way). Even when the credits have rolled, the chatter came awfully loud ranging from a sensational come back for Besson to being just meh (a weakness creeping up on the 55-year-old of late).
One thing is for sure; the effort has paid off handsomely and is on track in becoming the French’s most lucrative investment to date. Although it is significantly smarter than ‘The Transporter’ or ‘Taken’ series, viewers may be taken aback by the lack of stylised hand-to-hand combat or wire-fu which is already customary by today’s standards. The thought of seeing Johansson kicking the behinds of her tormentors à la Black Widow is reduced to a Jean Grey instead.
Despite the deficiency, a proficiently orchestrated car chase resorts to set things back on course when prior events have begun meandering. The ending can be frustrating and confusing for action fans who are only there to witness Johansson dabble in popcorn fluff but the risky selection would not have worked if this bona fide actress was not 100% onboard fully from the day of her participation (it is reiterated by the director himself on her enthusiasm towards the script).
The outlandish and mythical concept is kept from unraveling into absurdity through Johansson’s potent mix of a hapless yet strong-willed heroine. Her transformation from a coerced drug mule into a godlike entity is credible and you cannot help but cheer her on when she storms into the battlefield with guns ablazing. It is what keeps the movie afloat. She will continue to be everywhere after this. I can only hope the doubters will see it for what it is in time; a scientific and spiritual overview hidden within the frames of undemanding fun.
Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality