Thursday, 9 October 2014

Lucy (15) | Film Review

Lucy, dir/wr. Luc Besson, st. Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik

Luc Besson becomes the latest director to have a stab at the old we-only-use-a-fraction-of-our-brain chestnut in this globe-trotting actioner piloted by Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. The film follows Johansson's Lucy, a gangster's moll who becomes embroiled in a Taiwanese drug trafficking ring. Only the substance being moved is CPH4, a kind of highly concentrated Red Bull in crystalline form that tickles in small doses, and alters cellular design in large. Lucy soon (accidentally) quaffs the lot and starts to access more and more of her brain with gun-toting results. There's something reassuring about sitting down to a Besson movie - something about Eric Serra's dustbin-down-a-liftshaft percussion that feels reassuring. They're like a warming bowl of movie carbonara. So why is it then that Lucy, replete with grand allusions to Kubrickian existentialism, fails to satisfy? Possibly because of that very reason; its breadth of subject matter spreads it to thin to do it justice. There's an amount of disengaging pleasure to be had, and Johansson makes for a watchable if derivative superhero, but cheering a heroine whose powers grown exponentially godlike gets tiring very quickly. This is especially distressing given the fact that this is the same man that gave us 1990's extraordinary Nikita, nominally the same movie minus ILM VFX and $32m. Nikita and Lucy are virtually identical cyphers. They are both anonymous bottom feeders whose skills and abilities are thrust upon them, responsibilities they reluctantly accept. But where as Nikita earns hers over the course of half the movie's running time, Lucy acquires her superpowers with a swift kick to the abdomen. We feel Nikita's every breath and bruise; Lucy sends foes flying with an ESPd flick of her elegant wrist. But immortals are rarely fun. Even Zach Snyder's extensively backstoried Dr. Manhattan is hardly a barrel of laughs. Another key flaw is the cutting to Freeman's Professor Norman to give us lengthy TED-style lecturings on the nature of evolution. He doesn't meet up with Lucy until the second half of the movie and I can't help but feel there was a more fruitful relationship to be explored had Norman engaged with her earlier. Besson's film then exhibits more like a frolicking network TV pilot, the kind of opening salvo that sets the scene and establishes, but promises further perceptive development down the road. As a standalone movie, it just dulls the senses. There's no concern about using your brain to capacity here.