By Ed Symkus
More Content Now
French writer-director producer Luc Besson likes to make movies featuring strong women. More specifically, strong-willed women who also happen to be in fighting shape. The list includes “La Femme Nikita” (the source material for the TV show “Nikita”), “The Fifth Element” (Mila Jovovich’s Leeloo destroys the bad guys and saves the world) and “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” (self explanatory).
With “Lucy,” Besson goes above and beyond what his former female leads have done onscreen. The title character, played by Scarlett Johannson, starts off as a normal young woman, spending some holiday time in Taiwan, becoming, unbeknownst to her, a mule in a drug-smuggling operation, turning into a victim of the potent, dangerous, and unpredictable drug that’s literally been sewn into her insides, evolving into a super being whose powers emanate from her newly drug-charged brain, then turning the tables on the people who did this to her.
There’s the whole plot. But don’t worry, I’ve given away very little about the effect that watching this film will do to you ... probably something similar to what that drug does to Lucy, except it won’t make you smarter.
The film starts out with a presentation of total confusion. A dastardly but weak-willed former boyfriend of Lucy’s handcuffs her to a briefcase that he says must be delivered to Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi, who starred in the original “Oldboy”), a grim fellow whose hotel suite, where hapless Lucy and her briefcase are forcibly dragged, is blood-spattered before we see anything happen there.
She doesn’t know what’s going on, we don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no doubt this is a wrong place-wrong time scenario.
The film suddenly cuts to a college lecture hall, where the brilliant Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is calmly going on and on about the unfortunate way humans limit their brain power. For a while, the film jumps back and forth between the informational class (complete with fast-moving images relating to the ups and downs of mankind) and Lucy’s ever-worsening situation.
This is a movie that’s set on overdrive from the start, and it never bothers to relax. It’s not for the faint of heart, as its fast pace includes plenty of violence and blood (though not of the splattering sort). And a lot of information is tossed out for viewers to absorb and understand at almost the same pace as its fast storytelling and editing.
I’ll give away only one important plot point: The bag of drugs – it’s called CPH4, and it does crazy things to you – starts leaking, starts having a physical and in turn emotional effect on Lucy. She becomes better, stronger, faster, smarter, more cunning, probably angrier at those who did this to her. The drug sets her on a course of using 100 percent of her brain’s capacity. Besson’s movie left me so dizzyingly and numbingly senseless while watching it, I can’t recall if Professor Norman said that most of us use 2 percent or 10 percent of our brain power. What I do recall is that when the professor and Lucy finally meet, and she explains what’s happening, he admits that he has no clue as to what’s going to happen to her.
This is a great science fiction film with an original idea that’s wonderfully played out beyond any reasonable science fiction fan’s expectations. A dark comic side of it has Lucy able to control people and most objects all around her. A wild side of it has us careening through the streets of Paris in a car in which every rule of driving is being broken. Johansson, who, as regular readers of my reviews know, I’m not a fan of, nails this part, coming across as cool, calm, slinky, and deadly. Oddly, that’s the same way she played her alien character in the awful “Under the Skin.” But this time, working with a visionary, possibly insane director, a big budget, and a script that eventually makes complete sense, her presence works perfectly.
This is one of the nuttiest, trippiest, most enjoyably wild movies rides I’ve been on in a long time. Too bad it wasn’t made in the ’60s, when we really needed it.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written and directed by Luc Besson
With Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked
Movie review: I love Lucy’
By Ed Symkus