We all wait for the next Luc Besson film that might be the equal of LEON, but it’s proven illusive for the last twenty years – especially the last five. His latest, the sci-fi actioner LUCY, showed very promising signs of being ‘the one’. It isn't but there's still fun to be had.
Dippy American Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is tricked and forced into muling a new synthetic drug for Taipei gangsters (led by OLDBOY's Min-sik Choi on fine form), but after absorbing a massive amount of the compound into her bloodstream, she begins utilising more and more of her brain capacity, which in turn begins to unlock ever more superhuman abilities. At the same time as opening up a can of revenge-flavoured whup-ass on the baddies, she seeks out the help of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) to help share the knowledge she is so rapidly accumulating.
But while LUCY isn’t that return to LEON form that we all hope for (basically, this just doesn't have the characters), it’s certainly not plumbing the depths of THE MESSENGER, either. In the moment, most of this ride is as highly entertaining as it is daft. Johansson, having a blast and continuing her barnstorming couple of years playing otherworldly characters (after UNDER THE SKIN and HER), easily holds the film together.
Besson meanwhile, holds down two of his three jobs behind the camera (writer/director/producer) very well. He's always been a solid action director with an excellent eye for framing (which is why this cut such a great trailer) and visual effects, but this undermined somewhat by his under-egged, unfocused screenplay. Case in point: a perfectly good ‘animal instinct’ motif in the first act is set-up perfectly well, then abandoned after twenty minutes, never to be referenced again - it needed to be either be maintained or excised altogether.
With a little
more thought and care, LUCY could have been a great, long-remembered work of
sci-fi. As it is, we have something that is great fun yet completely disposable; ironically, it's not exactly challenging in the ol' brain department.
LUCY is released July 25 in the US, July 31 in Australia, and August 21 in NZ and August 22 in the UK.