As a writer and director, Luc Besson has come up with some truly engaging heroines. He previously directed Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi in The Lady, and he tackled French comic book heroineAdèle Blanc-Sec. Going back further and we have The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and The Fifth Element with Milla Jovovich, he introduced us to Natalie Portman in Léon: The Professional, and then there’s his most resilient creation La Femme Nikita (1990) which spawned a US remake in 1993, a Hong Kong remake in 1991 (that had a sequel), a TV series with Peta Wilson (5 seasons) and a current TV series with Maggie Q. For a track record, there are hits and misses.
I like his work (ever since Subway) and will probably see everything else he’ll come up with, especially if he’s handling writing and directing – yes, even The Family which I felt he might have been to slavish to the book and didn’t push the finale just that little bit further.
Lucy puts Besson on some familiar turf with an engaging female lead and some popping action beats. Aside from little niggling detail we have to take on faith – that Lucy is a student, which might make her much younger than the lead actress – it’s Scarlett Johansson’s screen presence that carries the movie through as Lucy begins to evolve. That happens when Lucy is exposed to some synthetic drugs that unleashes the potential of her mind. Where the movie goes with this is not what you’d expect. Certain ideas and concepts are played with here leading to a finale that fans of classic science fiction might appreciate.
Besson has admitted that this is a project he’s been working on for the last ten years and given how science can advance, there are some out-dated ideas Human Beings use 10% of their brain capacity? At the start, Lucy appears to be operating on 2% if we follow the narrative count on the screen. Much of the ‘science’ exposition is delivered by the authoritative god-like voice – and presence – of Morgan Freeman (if you’re going to be typecast, it’s not a bad gig), who probably best reflects the befuddlement of the audience as Lucy continues to evolve. Bad guy duties are courtesy of Min-Sik Choi, who enters the story looking like an slightly pudgy asian Gary Oldman stepping out of Léon: The Professional (see trailer below). Not quite as crazy or insane but menacing all the same. On the side of the law, recruited by Lucy, is Amr Waked’s Pierre del Rio who brings some comic relief, not as a inept cop, but more one who is way out of his depth. There in lies Besson’s typical absurdist humour.
The influences of comic books and anime (Akira comes to mind at several points) are apparent as are Besson’s touch of humour and his handling of action set-pieces, from vehicular mayhem to bullet-ballets (see oh-so-many of his EuropaCorp/Digital Factory movies). The movie runs a brisk 90 minutes buoyed mainly by Johansson, and Eric Serra’s driving score. There are some impressive effects work courtesy of ILM. All that may appeal to fans of Besson’s work of even those who enjoy comic book action films. The science fiction elements and the nature of the ending, thought provoking as it may be, may turn a few audience members off. That doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, because it’s always cool to have Scarlett Johansson kicking-ass on screen.
Stars Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-Sik Choi, Amr Waked
Directed by Luc Besson