Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review: Lucy

Director: Luc Besson
Screenplay: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlet Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik

Synopsis is here

Note: The opening of this review contains spoilers for three Scarlett Johansson movies, including this one.

It happened with a hint of humour and romance with Her. It also occurred to a more devastating effect in Under the Skin. Now here, in Lucy, Scarlet Johansson once again gathers all the human information she can, gains a complete understanding of humans as a species, before dissipating into the atmosphere and exiting our existence when her capacity for us have reached her peak. In Lucy, this trait of the actress is perhaps at its most ludicrous and yet still provides a certain amount of engagement.

Lucy is ridiculous in the same way that Neveldine and Taylor are. Our lead character accidentally overdoses on an experimental drug, and begins to level up in percentage figures. It's not enough that we have a dump truck of exposition around every corner. No, said information is often visualised by overtly obvious metaphors. So when you see a wide eyed Lucy quivering like a gazelle mesmerised by a cheetahs glare. The film cuts to a direct, on-the-nose, visual of such an event. Heroes and villains are broadly defined in such a way, I’m surprised we didn't have their name and main characteristic tattooed on their forehead. The premise of the movie is built around the debunked theory that we only use ten percent of our brain. There's a feeling amongst some that brainpower was not at full capacity when thinking of the scripting.

Lucy is part comic, part video game and all lunacy. The film is equal parts Limitless, The Fifth Element and Crank and it revels in its nuttiness, as did I for the most part. The film's channel hopping, A.D.D craziness will irritate some, but I have to admit it's the first piece of Besson tinged madness that I've had a laugh in for quite a while. The fact it's clearly winking at the camera and acknowledging its silliness is one thing, but the gusto and lack of cynicism is quite refreshing. Lucy wants the viewer to hop on for the ride as opposed to push shock buttons obnoxiously. Something that often distracts me from the likes of Nev/Taylor.

A lot of Lucy’s fun stems from its casting. The doe eyed and anatomically pleasing Scarlett Johansson, already showed in Under the skin just how well she can do the flat, distant performance. Demonstrating that segregated from human beings look is difficult to pull off without looking like its “bad” acting. Johansson loses the more serpentine movements that inflections that were noted in Johnathon Glazer’s sci-fi, and instead fuses her overdosing action hero with sharp, analytical head swipes and eye darts. Again Johansson makes the whole not-of-this-realm thing seem effortless.  Morgan Freeman appears to bring forth the necessary “wisdom” to proceedings, kicking off with a tutorial that clearly drives the film's tongue into its cheek. It’s an actioner which drolly muses over its powered protagonist entering God mode. Set pieces don’t last too long here, and why the hell should they? Johansson has pressed iddqd. We shouldn’t expect a near tiresome display of stunts. Although the sequences we see have their quirks. Lucy manages to indulge into the silliness of superheroes with a certain cartoonish aplomb.

Maybe I’m just happy that Besson keeps his expansive (and silly) ideas, light, loose and under 90 minutes. The film doesn't offend me by being longer than it needs to be, although the execution of the film’s last act lacks a certain punch. However, by the time Lucy starts communicating with telecom communications through windscreens, I was already too immersed in films nonsense to mind too much. Feather-brained it may be, but Lucy once again showcases Scarlett Johansson as a sassy alternative to Jason Statham and has Besson finding the right vehicle for his lunacy.  There’s much talk about Johansson’s Marvel’s arrangements, but if Johansson wants to keep pursuing this type of madcap premise, count me in.