Just like Lucy’s brain capacity in this film, Luc Besson’s talent operates at various capacities, from the excellent Leon to the dire The Family although, unlike Lucy, his talent isnt accelerating towards one hundred percent.However, thanks to some impressive visual effects and the usual sexy-yet-intelligent performance from Scarlet Johansson this film sits nicely in the middle.
After the opening credits showing rapid division of cells reminiscent of something you might see in Malick’s Tree of Life, we are zipped over to Taiwan where a gum-chewing, vacant-eyed Lucy (Johansson) argues with her boyfriend,Richard (Pilou Asbaek, A Hijacking). After a night on the tiles she wants to go home, shower and do her college assignment but he wants her to deliver a suspicious briefcase to some equally suspicious guys in a hotel. As Richard ruthlessly hand-cuffs the case to her arm and pushes her into the hotel, the scene is cut with images of a mouse sniffing at a trap and a gazelle getting chased by a cheetah in the wild. Unsubtle as this may be, it actually works. The scene is orchestrated so well as Lucy’s carefree American student becomes a terrified prisoner of merciless Taiwaese gangers, led by a stoney faced Min Sik-Choi (Oldboy), who greets Lucy wearing blood splattered goggles. Lucy’s fear is palpable as she vomits at the sight of the three men that he has butchered. And all this in the first ten minutes!
Along with a group of other unfortunate prisoners, Lucy is forced to smuggle a large quantity of drugs into Europe. A synthesised version of human growth hormone CH4 has been sewn inside Lucy’s abdomen and, en-route to Paris, the drug starts to seep into her system with alarming results. After some dramatic flailing about and a Superman-like transformation, Lucy comes out the other side with extraordinary strength. Her progress is conveniently explained to us via scenes where eminent scientist Dr. Norman (Morgan Freeman) gives lectures on the subject of brain potential and what could theoretically happen if humans were able to harness more than ten percent of their brain capacity. This is where Besson slips up, patronising his audience by presuming their belief in that old 10% chestnut . With the help of the authoritative voice that narrated March of the Penguins, we are led to believe that although this film is science-fiction, some of what we see is based in fact.
Whether it be science-fiction or science-fact (Fiction!) doesn’t really matter for the purposes of entertainment. Lucy makes for entralling viewing as the ever-increasing percentages flash up onto the screen as Lucy colonises more and more of her brain, developing super-human traits such as telekinesis, telephathy, and the ability to feel everything around her such as space ,air and gravity. Its a pleasure to watch Johansson as she transforms from a clueless carefree student to an all-knowing oracle. As her brain capacity spins towards one hundred percent and her health begins to suffer, she must seek out Dr. Norman to help her harness her knowledge for the good of mankind, whilst being persued by the French police and the Taiwanese drug lords.
There’s plenty of exciting action to behold in Lucy, whether you like car chases down the Rue de Rivoli in Paris or a gun totting Johansson taking on a gang of Asian mobsters using only her new powers to suspend them from the ceiling. Following on from Her and Under the Skin, Scarlet Johansson gives another excellent other-worldly performance.
Min Sik- Choi has little to do but play the quintessential villain who shouts commands at his henchmen, one of whom is played by Julian Rhind-Tutt in an hilarious, if slightly out-of-place performance as he prepares the mules for their doomed assignment.
At times this film straddles a thin line between the sublime and the ridiculous. There is real poignancy in a scene where Lucy, bursting with a deepened awareness of her past, phones her mother and recounts how she can remember the taste of her breast milk and other early memories that are realistically impossible. Unfortunately we then have to witness a cringeworthy scene where our protagonist zooms through space and time popping in on the dinosours and 18th Century New York City along with flashes of Neanderathal man discovering fire that are crudely reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is the pointless inclusion of Amr Waked as a French cop who follows Lucy around for no apparent reason than to act as a very brief love interest.
Lucy is a very slick and entertaining film, but nowhere near 100%.