Director and Writer: Luc Beeson
Cast: Scarlett Johanssen. Morgan Freeman. Choi Min-Sik. Amr Waked.
Running time: 90 mins
Luc Beeson, the man who will either give you the boundless and unashamed fun of Fifth Element, Leon or Taken but the slap you in the face with the moving insults of District 13 and The Transporter. I have learned to be wary of Beeson films. When it comes to teaching you about cinematic false hope Beeson is the equivalent of Cobra Kai’s John Creese, with a swift roundhouse kick of ridiculousness to the head every so often.
Regardless I never learn and this film did grab my interest, it places Scarlett Johanssen as the not so shockingly named Lucy (missed a potential twist there Luc). She is living in Taipei, Taiwan where her short term boyfriend asks her to deliver a package. Intense hijinks of sorts ensue and Lucy ends up as a drug mule with a new experimental drug stored inside her, these crazy kids abroad! During her travels the bag is punctured and she involuntarily takes the drug into her system. We get some attempts at explaining how the drug increases activity in the brain and unlocks unused pathways and in consuming such a high amount Lucy’s brain kicks into overdrive. She then discovers her body will burn out and goes on a quest to find the other packages of the drug to sustain her so she can reach 100% brain function and pass on her knowledge to us, the brain dead mortals. Morgan Freeman is Professor Norman a scientist in the field who tries to guide and document Lucy’s progress, Amr Waked is Pierre Del Rio a Police Officer taken along for the ride. The biggest coup however is Choi Min-Sik of Oldboy fame as Kang the drug kingpin hellbent on recovering his merchandise and wreaking his vengeance on Lucy. Interesting theory, maybe need to pick your fights a little better there and leave the evolving Demi-god alone…
Now the film has had polarising reviews and reactions and is definitely not what I expected, as I expected to be remotely entertained. Don’t get me wrong the production values and effects are fantastic, the cast is strong and the story is a fresh batch of potentially daft fun. It has some of the ingredients with a fast paced, generic musical score, smart camera angles and a rich, vibrant setting but what about the meat on the bones of the film?
The thing I take from this film is that it didn’t really know what it wanted to be or if it did then it didn’t commit to it strongly enough. The film and story looked to be a fun ride of suspended disbelief where we watch a predator use her skills to survive or exact revenge, what we get is a a mash of attempted psychology and a showcase of effects. Lucy starts out after her dose of crazy pills as a focused killer who quickly dispatches of her captors without much choreography or effort. Feels anti climactic for all the build up but just the start right? We’ll get more right? No. This is far too exciting to explore and so Lucy steps past this straight to being able to make people pass out, change her appearance and control objects and people at her whim.
This sounds off the scale in coolness but actually renders her super-powered with no journey and basically means she has already won. No explanation or discovery means no feeling or experiences are attached. For a small example she instantly reads foreign languages but without research or discovering why, did she break it like naturally a code or learn it quickly through the internet or a book? Pffft who cares, she did it so apparently I should move on as quickly as the attempt at a plot does.
A large chunk of the movie hinges on the capable and steady shoulders of the irresistiblely charming Scarlett Johanssen. She does a great job of moving seamlessly from the doe eyed, frightened victim to the focused, ruthless and selfish survivor through the film. A phone call to her mum is quite a nice moment, it’s a good nod to her wrestling with her old memories though but there is little other emotional scope and it feels like a quickly dispatched chance. The fact she is willing to harm others to complete her mission is nice as she finishes off a terminal patient or tosses people aside in an entertaining car crash, again though this is glossed over so she just seems cold and it’s hard to support her vague quest.
Amr Waken is blatantly there to be us, our character to bond with and is charming but with no time or chance for us to connect with him or him with the android named Lucy. Morgan Freeman does a great job at playing Morgan. Freeman, the ever supportive and wise comforting character. Luc Beeson claimed Kang is his best villain since Gary Oldman’s titanic turn in Keon and Choi Min-Sik is perfect with his effortless intensity.
The problem is the Lucy version 2.0 has no emotion as her focus grows and is limitless in her power. This means she has no connection to the other characters and no threat from the world around her. What is strength with weakness or other strength to compare it to?
The ending is also incredibly arrogant as it basically claims to give you the meaning of life. It is again very unsatisfying and is banking on your desire for effects with little to no payoff. It’s the equivalent of handing me a kaleidoscope then asking me nicely to leave the cinema now, though that actually would have been preferable.
The film looked like it was going to be like Jason Bourne tripping balls on LSD and ends up a drawn out affair. The movie seems to be making a point that if you don’t get it then you must be shallow or stupid because it’s definitely there…. It’s like the emperor’s new plot! If the film is 90 minutes and yet I’m bored then you are doing something wrong. The percentage of her brain functionality crops up on the screen intermittently in the film 24 style as her end looms. However I saw this count down as a promise of the film ending as my patience reached 0%, which is also the amount of sense in the film. I’m sure this movie has a message, I just don’t know what it is and there is nothing along the way that makes me care.
Verdict: A film that vomits a torrent of style all over its small amount of substance. Entertaining for the eyes but nothing else as Luc Beeson gives me yet another lesson not to get my hopes up, as films are rarely as they market and often too ‘clever’ for their own good.