THERE are two main draws for this movie. One: the return to form of Luc Besson, director of such acclaimed films as Leon and The Fifth Element. Two: a leading role for Scarlett Johansson – one full of gunplay, superpowers and general ass-kickery that flirts with being the nearest thing we are going to get to a Black Widow movie.
Unfortunately, Lucy is neither of these things. Instead we get a hodgepodge retread of some of Besson’s previous artistic flair that occasionally threatens to thrill, but more often than not takes a back seat to extended sequences of philosophical sci-fi noodling.
The plot, which concerns a drug that increases the brain’s functionality (from the supposed usual mere 10 percent all the way up to its full functionality), is admittedly largely pseudo science and a tad barmy, but not necessarily a bad starting point for a fun action movie. Where Lucy fails however, is in its insistence on taking the concept rather too seriously and coming off all the more of a damp squib because of it. It’s less of a Limitless and more of a Transcendence.
Scarlett Johansson is perhaps the film’s greatest asset. Despite being relegated to acting stony faced and delivering monotone for much of the second half, she gets to show good range earlier on, particularly during the tense sequences of the first 20 minutes (arguably the best moments of the film). Contrary to what the marketing hype would have you believe, however, there isn’t all that much action involving her – increasingly so as the film goes on.
Choi Min-sik is terrific as a quietly threatening Korean mobster, but feels utterly wasted beyond the film’s initial scenes, Morgan Freeman barely registers in a typecast role he has played countless times before, and Amr Waked unintentionally yet accurately conveys his almost pointless presence throughout. Elsewhere, the over abundance of intercut stock footage, extended CG sequences that signify changes happening inside her body, and the all-powerful nature of Lucy’s myriad abilities (which means there is almost no sense of threat from her pursuers toward the climax of the movie), all just serve to dull the viewing experience.
There are occasional flashes of Besson’s brilliance, and yet most of theses are rehashes of his past efforts: the tense standoffs and realistic crime drama (Leon), the beautiful female killer (La Femme Nikita), the reaisation that said female has a bigger role to play in the universe (The Fifth Element), the frantic car chase through the streets of Paris (Taxi – which Besson wrote and produced) – none of which quiet gel together cohesively here. Much like the appearance of a CG dinosaur, they seem to be included here just because Besson could.
There are some other intriguing moments: the aforementioned opening scenes with mobsters in a hotel that continually cranks up the tension, and a scene involving a phone call home mid-surgery – but these are few and far in between. Although the ultimate trajectory with which Besson aims for with the initial concept is a surprisingly ambitious one, it doesn’t quite work so well in this chosen method of delivery.
The result: Lucy is a thoroughly average experience that will leave those expecting a fun action romp scratching their heads, particularly come the finale.
(Score: 3 out of 5)