Lucy is a bonkers movie. Your enjoyment of it may vary on your willingness to accept said bonkers-ness.
It’s the latest stab at the old notion that humanity only uses ten percent of its mental capacity, inquiring what would happen if the remaining portion could be accessed. In this take by writer-director Luc Besson, the tale follows Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy, a woman going to school in Taiwan whom happens to hang out with an unsavory fellow who delivers various undisclosed goods for cash. This fellow has had a falling out with the crime boss Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame), and thus wants Lucy to make a vitral drop-off at a hotel for him. Lucy protests and the man’s wants turns to forces, as our protagonist is handcuffed to a locked case and has to act as courier.
It doesn’t go well.
A few splattered heads later, Lucy finds herself waking up in a hotel with stitches. She, along with three other hapless individuals, are informed that they have had a new, experimental drug surgically placed inside them and that each must deliver the pile of mysterious blue shards to various destinations.
This too doesn’t go well.
Captured and chained to a wall, Lucy appears to be in the worst possible of states; then the drugs start leaking. The substance meshes into her own body’s chemistry and within seconds, Lucy’s control of her brain has amplified. Over the next hour of screentime, she develops the abilities to speed-read, learn new languages at will, use sonar and, well, a lot more. Plus, she’s kind of pissed off about having drugs implanted into her and wouldn’t mind some revenge, not to mention more of the blue stuff.
Besson’s movie is crazy and playful. Where previous incarnations of such a story-trope have flirted with ideas of addiction and wish-fulfillment, Lucy is more interested in the strange. This isn’t an action movie where a heroine can unleash all of history’s martial arts abilities at a moment’s notice. Besson’s film is a big, kind of goofy science fiction. If one had the ability to shape matter and gravity, why would a fist ever be thrown? The ideas played around here are heady and large in that manner it seems only European filmmakers and writers mess around with.
The tone is an amalgam of Besson’s most well known films; Leon and The Fifth Element. The operatic tenor and music of Leon and the slapdash lunacy of The Fifth Element congeal into a film calls to mind everything from Crank to The Tree of Life. Johansson continues her run of strong performances, slipping from a scared woman just hoping to survive the moment to a robotic figure that speaks with a swift directness. There’s a silliness, flirting with camp, that makes it all feel fresh. When Lucy is getting chased by cops through the streets of Paris, it isn’t about the tension or reality. Besson goes over-the-top, as Lucy flicks cars out of her way and into the way of others. We know she isn’t going to get demolished in this scene; it’s seeing the wizardry she wields to get through it that is exciting.
By the time the immensely insane last act concludes, this cocktail of guns, gravity, Morgan Freeman and ancient mankind has formed a tasty treat.
Lucy opens wide all across Seattle tomorrow.