Lucy review: Scarlett Johansson uses her head in Luc Besson action-thriller

Posted on 28 August 2014
By George Anthony Heron
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It has been 20 years since Luc Besson broke into the mainstream with his hit, Leon, a thriller with a captivating lead character – an assassin with a heart.

His new film Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, is his first notable sojourn as a director since the critical panning of Joan of Arc back in 1999, when his obsession with Milla Jovovich reached its nadir.

The main thing which drew me to this film was the buzz around Twitter stating that Lucy was heavily influenced by a little known manga/anime called Elfen Lied, a blood-drenched tale of a girl, also named Lucy, with catastrophic special powers whose memory is erased after being shot in the head, forgetting who she is and what she can do.

I need to get this out the way and tell you that the Twitter murmurings are false – this is not an adaptation of Lynn Okamoto’s masterpiece. To think of it as so will only lead to disappointment. A disappointment that this film does not deserve.

Lucy (Johansson) is an American party girl who is living in Taiwan with her friend. The film throws you straight into a tense situation as a man who she’s only known for a week tries to get her to do some of his dirty work. The old, “please take this suitcase into that hotel for me” kind of dirty work. Yes, that old chestnut. While this tense scene is unfolding, random natural images appear for a split-second, a leopard sizing up its prey, a wilder beast. Nice, off-the-wall ways to suggest that peril is forthcoming for our Lucy, and it ain’t wrong.

The intended recipient of said briefcase is one Mr Jang, played with malignant glee by Old Boy’s Min-Sik Choi. A drug smuggler of a special kind of drug that has a profound effect on our Lucy. I’m assuming you haven’t all lived under a rock and have seen the poster describing the effect.

Besson has made a solid compact action movie with Lucy. The action is satisfying despite him nearly hijacking the pacing of the film, switching to a lecture performed by Morgan Freeman’s character which threatens to turn it into one of those education videos you would be forced to watch in secondary school.

Lucy’s journey from a scared girl to an ubermensch is convincing to a point, although I disagree with the notion that the more intelligent she gets the more monotonous and weird she has to be. She develops some strange ticks but surely if she truly were intelligent, she would realise that she looks stupid doing them and would cut it out.

The portrayal of Lucy is nowhere near as sexist as any of the women in Sin City 2. No unnecessary cleavage shots or nudity. In this film it is the woman with all the brains and all the men are at her mercy, which makes a pleasant change without the sour feminist after-taste that such a scenario could bring.

Lucy is worthy of your pennies to sample this photoplay on the big screen in your local cinema or multiplex.

Lucy is now showing at Picturehouse at FACT. For more information visit the following link: http://bit.ly/1uSt7Gz