You know, twenty years ago if you’d asked me “yo, Movie Bastard, just who is the best French action movie director around”, I would have laughed, “Luc Besson, you idiot” and then slapped you across your ignorant face. Around the mid-90’s mark he was killing it with Fifth Element and Leon and other things. But since then he’s been making all kinds of weird shit like the Arthur movies. But what of him in the mid 2010’s? Has his student, Pierre Morel (Taken, The Gunman) become the master?
Or will Lucy, Besson’s 2014 return to action, reignite his creative shoot-em-up skills? Lets find the feck out.
Scarlett Johansson (The Spirit) plays Lucy in Lucy, and it’s all about her ascension from useless student to super being. We start in Taiwan, and Lucy is busy pissing up Mommy and Daddy’s money on a wasted education. Instead of learning she’s been whoring. Her current BF is some douchebag with a fake red leather jacket and sunglasses.
Played by Pilou Asbaek (Borgen) “Richard” is likely the type who’d bang out Wonderwall on an acoustic guitar just to pick up chicks. He’s that kind of nobhead. Most likely they met on some wild night out, and it’s evident she’s more interested in his “cool” bad boy persona than his actual prospects.
They’re outside some highrise in Taipei (so Wikipedia tells me), he hand-cuffs a briefcase to her wrist. Unknown to her, it contains three bags of CPH4 – the stuff that fetuses feed off that turns them from cells into thinking mini-people. Lucy, knowing none of this, heads inside to ask one Mr. Jang for some help getting the briefcase off her wrist.
A bunch of heavies appear and “invite” her upstairs for a chat. Everyone at reception do their best to look away and keep busy with other stuff like filing and watering plants and shit. Outside Richard is assassinated by someone for some reasons that are never really explained. But he was a cock so it doesn’t matter and we forget about it super quick anyway.
Up in a slick penthouse, Lucy meets Mr. Jangles (Choi Min-sik – Oldboy). He’s a uber drug lord, and Richard was just another pawn in his nefarious schemes. Being a stupid foreigner who don’t speaky da lingo, she has no clue what’s going on. Still, begging for your life is pretty much a universal language, and they decide not to kill her.
She wakes up with a pain in her stomach. No it wasn’t a bad kebab-induced nightmare. She’s still in Taiwan at the mercy of Jang. She’s hauled into a room where Helpful English Lawyer (Julian Rhind-Tutt – Rush) explains things – she and a bunch of other dudes are going to be used as literal drug suitcases. They’ll be muling a gut load of the stuff over to Europe.
So off they go to the airport. Lucy, being the only one that looks like Scarlett Johansson, attracts the most attention. Foolishly, she spits on one goon who takes a liking to her. Clearly, they’re not at that close intimate stage of their relationship where this is acceptable, so he proceeds to beat her down and put the boot in. Bad idea, considering she’s just gone through minor back-alley surgery.
The bag inside of her rips open, and she gets a hot dose of the crazy juice. Taking a voyage to tripout city, the weird blue chemical re-wires her brain. Suddenly everything is okay and still. Old useless, scared and slightly annoying Lucy is gone. Lucy Badass has taken her place. She now has complete control over her body (yeah, apparently we don’t have complete control over our bodies already). She can ignore pain, perform Ong Bak-levels of martial arts, and is proficient in firearms.
Peeling herself from the floor, she awaits the return of her captors. Cocking her head all coy-like and opening her legs invitingly, the next simpleton guard is predictably lured into her trap and taken out. Using his keys, she frees herself and makes her escape.
She takes out a few more of Jang’s minions on her way out, and catches a bullet with her shoulder. It doesn’t bother her nothing, as she’s more machine now than (wo)man, just without any actual machine parts. After a quick jaunt to a hospital, she bursts in on a surgery, executes the patient, and demands the remaining drugs removed.
The surgeon, at gun-point, complies. After some amiable “don’t fucking kill me” chat, the extent of her situation is revealed. She should be dead, and unless she keeps getting more of the drug, she’ll die horribly. So back to Jang’s she heads.
A bit of hand-stabbing torture later, and she’s able to backwards investigate where the three other mules are heading. In the meantime, she’s asked Google just who is the leading mind in brain expanding-related research. It turns out it’s the painted man Morgan Freeman (The Lego Movie).
After calling him up, he’s able to quantify some of the crazy stuff she’s now able to do. As her ability to access and control her brain increases from our feeble 10% up to the lofty heights of 70-80%, she can change her appearance, make people float, pluck radio waves out of the air and know the true ending to Inception. She can also infiltrates all electronic devices, and summarily invites herself over for lunch with Professor Freeman.
On the flight over she has a brief come-down from the drug where she starts to disintegrate. Yeah, that beats cold sweats, don’t it smack addicts. After chowing down on her remaining stash, she lands in Paris whole again. With the help of a local cop Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked – Syriana), she’s able to coordinate a Europe-wide Stop & Search for the other mules. In the space of a few hours all the drugs are in the hands of the police with Lucy Badass inbound to collect them.
But Jang is coming for revenge, and he wants his gear back. He’s brought all of the gang with him too. Del Rio offers to drive her and the drugs away to a safe location. Instead, she uses her mental power to move him into the passenger seat and assumes control herself. Using the Force, she evades all of Jang’s chasing minions in a pretty cool car sequence.
They meet up with Freeman and he’s all “I’m smart, but I don’t know wtf is going to happen lol”. She’s rapidly reaching 100%, but needs time to charge up or something. Del Rio assigns some cops to hold down the building in the meantime.
As Jang and his boys tear up the place, Lucy is off exploring time and space as she slowly transforms into a black liquid metal computer. Jang’s number one dude Jii clears the cops using a bazooka, and Jang heads into the room to face Lucy Badass mano e womano. But she reaches 100% and disappears before he can pull the trigger. Confused, Jang is all “wtf is going on”. Freeman is “I don’t know wtf is going on”. Del rio then shoots Jang and stands all forlorn and gutted about how the hot American girl has just vanished. Sure, she was probably out of his league, intellectually, but they shared a moment.
Freeman is all about the little USB drive that Lucy has somehow transformed into. Apparently it contains all her accumulated knowledge and stuff. It’s clearly something special as it’s all glittery (she was a woman after all) and contains all of the information in the universe. Plus, if she’s made it, it will probably plug in the first time you try too. I doubt Dell can make that kind of shit.
Lucy is a quick film. It doesn’t ever linger in one spot enough for us to get comfortable. At one point I was expecting her to go chasing all over Europe for each drug pouch. It would be like some time-limit film, with each mule posing different difficulties and different environments. It could have been so cool, with her slightly uber abilities allowing her to survive in the criminal underworld. Sort of like Crank…
How about NOPE. She’ll just get some other dudes to do that. And that’s my major beef.
The action is sporadic. Brutal and cool, but sporadic. You’ll pretty much see all the best bits in the trailer. The car chase was done well. I imagine the brief was “a computer is driving a car being pursued by gangsters”. It was a little over reliant on CGI, but hey the days of Ronin are long since gone, so we can’t be blaming Besson for that.
Johansson changes pretty dramatically as a character. One minute she’s that annoying type of student girl who everyone hates. The next she’s Data from Star Trek. The transition is pretty swift, and the brief run time gives little time for pause. There’s a few nice moments where she recognizes that she’s changing and stuff (like calling her Mum or kissing the cop just because), but they’re few and far between. It’s pretty much Computer Lucy throughout.
I praise Besson for the multi-cultural/lingual production, and Min-sik as Jang is a hoot. His intro is spot on – getting the blood of some poor fool all over his crisp white suit. We just know he’s dangerous as only some crazy mofo would be getting all handy with some dweebs wearing white. But beyond a need to recoup his losses and get revenge on Lucy, he’s not given many moments to go proper Gary Oldman mental. A sad waste.
Freeman is pretty much the same. He’s there purely to explain things. He’s the narrator and reminds us that we only have access to so much of our brain. His lecturing mirrors Lucy’s own mental growth, and provides some explanation to her growing capabilities. He doesn’t offer anything beyond exposition in his soothing God-like tones.
The end is also a tad unsatisfying. Effectively, she transcends to the “next stage” and disappears. Sort of like Tetsuo buggering off to become a God in some other dimension in Akira. Albeit that was far cooler and destructive. I doubt Besson had the budget to blow on exploding Paris. Instead it’s left very much up in the air as to what is happening. She goes on a mental journey into space and back in time and stuff. So was this some form of destiny? Was it pre-ordained she do this? Does she kickstart the evolution of man by saying “hi” to that ape-thing thousands of years ago? Why did she transform into a USB stick? Those sort of unanswered questions.
I’d sort of hoped for a proper showdown with Jang. Obviously, she’d be able to best him easily, or anyone else in the universe. But in her weakened state as she’s transforming maybe he could have posed a little threat or something? What about him feeding a new batch of CPH4 to Jii and creating his own super-charged bastard minion? Nah, we’ll have none of that thanks. Maybe it’s because we know that everything is so easy for her that I found the film unsatisfying.
Her powers escalate too high too quickly, and it’s obvious that she’s unstoppable. It red lines within 15 minutes. What was mildly surprising is that she doesn’t choose to destroy the human race at any point. As we’ve seen a zillion times before (Terminator, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Abyss etc etc), whenever anything with a slightly higher IQ learns of our feeble existence they quickly conclude “lol, you stupid humans need to be wiped out before you cause some real damage”. Lucy doesn’t give a shit though.
Not that human life means much to her. She kills the dude on the operating table without thought. I liked that bit, instantly thinking “Why the hell did she do that??”. She answers my question moments later “he wasn’t going to make it anyway”. Shit like that works well. A shame that there aren’t any many other moments like this.
Instead, we’re given sequences of high-concept genre action inter-cut with nature sequences (bits like leopards chasing deer and stuff). It’s a bit heavy handed. I’d have preferred more gun-fights or Matrix moments.
Overall, it’s cool to see Johansson ascend to bona fied movie badass. I like this direction she’s taking, especially considering the general lack of modern female ass-kickers rolling around. It’s good to see Besson back in the driving seat of this kind of film, even if it doesn’t cut the mustard like his older shit. Maybe this is the warm up for his upcoming 2017 sci-fi action bonanza Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets. We’ll see.
Lucy is a dumb action film with some science bits and an incomprehensible ending. Get it watched if you like that sort of thing.