To say Luc Besson, whose latest film, Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson has just come out, is a busy man is quite the understatement.
After Besson the director first blasted his way into the hearts of action movie lovers everywhere with the triple play of La Femme Nikita, Léon: The Professional, and The Fifth Element, he has mainly stuck to writing and producing — for better and worse. Kiss of the Dragon, Unleashed, District 13 along with the sequel and remake, two Takens, and all three Transporters are just some of the films he’s churned out over the last 15 years. The Family being his last directorial effort made us think that maybe he’d finally run out of steam, but now with Lucy, Besson takes us back to a tone more consistent with his earlier work and proves he’s still got some life left in him after all.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is living in Taiwan, and has been dating Richard (Pilou Asbæk) for only a week when he forces her into delivering a briefcase to Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). Lucy has no idea what’s inside, but it turns out to be a new drug called “CPH4” that “the kids are going to love.”
Mr. Jang has the drug implanted in Lucy and three other mules, but after one of Jang’s goons beats her up, it leaks into her system, giving Lucy free reign over her brain’s full capacity. Eventually, Lucy contacts Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) to help her understand what’s happening to her. Meanwhile, Jang is hot on her trail as she starts to be able to control her own body and the world around her. It’s a race against time before she reaches a full 100 percent of her abilities.
Lucy is full of all the Besson prerequisites: action sequences set to classical music, cop sidekicks — fulfilled here by Amr Waked as Captain Del Rio — and of course, a bazooka. Lucy flies along from one scenario to the next, winding up in a finale that feels like a Besson-directed episode of Fox’s Cosmos. The best advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride; Besson is back to his style-over-substance shenanigans.
Johansson carries the film on her shoulders, bringing depth to a character that is becoming less human as Lucy races for the finish line at a breakneck pace. This is the fastest-paced action film of the summer so far. Besson thinks Lucy is full of big ideas, but as wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am entertainment is how it really succeeds. And when it comes to Besson, that’s all we want anyway. Taken at face value, Lucy is a blast.
Photo courtesy Universal Pictures