The best way to describe Luc Besson’s new sci-fi action thriller, Lucy, is to say that they took The Tree of Life and remade it into Oldboy. Or maybe they took Oldboy and made it into The Tree of Life. Then again, Lucy is nowhere near as visceral as Oldboy, nor is it anywhere close to the level of ethereal brilliance that was The Tree of Life, so perhaps you would be better off just watching those two films as a back-to-back double feature, or maybe simultaneously, via picture-in-picture mode on your TV, and just leave the poor hapless Lucy alone to wallow in the oh so predictable bore that is her movie.
Now granted, there are a few scenes that almost live up to the hype of a new Luc Besson film, as we see Scarlett Johansson’s titular poor hapless Lucy go from ditzy, leopard skin jacket-wearing party girl who doesn’t even use the 10% of her brain that Morgan Freeman’s lackadaisical professor hypothesizes most humans use, to a brilliant, precognitive, telekinetic ass-kicker who seeks revenge on the Korean mobster bastards that tried turning her into a drug mule for a new synthetic drug based on the hormones that a pregnant woman produces. This may not be the Besson of The Fifth Element or The Professional (modern-day tops of their respective genres), but this most certainly is not the Besson of The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (that film was just godawful bad), and therefore finds itself wading around in the middle-of-the-road mediocrity of many of the director’s written-but-not-directed-by films of recent times, such as the Taken series or the Transporter films.
Originally, Angelina Jolie had been cast in the title role here, before having to bow out and be replaced with ScarJo. I do think they got the right actress for the job though. Johansson is at her best when she is playing on a semi or non-emotional platform. It worked for her in some her best roles, such as Ghost World, Lost in Translation, and to a point, her times as Black Widow; and it works for her here as well. The only problem is that her performance is limited by the surprising lack of vision by Besson. And speaking of limited performances, Morgan Freeman, a usually quite engaging actor, has no real purpose here other than to spoon feed the audience just what is happening to our hapless heroine. This is a cinematic trend that grinds this critics’ gears. The most annoying thing about Chris Nolan’s Inception, a film I otherwise quite enjoyed, was Ellen Page’s character. The only reason she even existed was so others could explain to the audience, through her, just what exactly was going on in the film. That is pretty much Freeman’s only purpose here. We as an audience, are not so collectively stupid that we need every little plot point spoon fed to us. Maybe there are some things we do not need to know, and which are better left to the imagination that goes so hand-in-hand with cinema. Perhaps Freeman should have been playing the voice of God instead, which I suppose, he kind of is anyway.
Now I don’t want to be a total Debbie Downer here. As I stated above, there are some fun moments within this film. Many of the fight scenes, or should I say anti-fight scenes, as they are quite one-sided, and the chase through the streets of Paris are quite fun indeed. Korean superstar, Choi Min-sik, who most people in the West know as the star of Oldboy (see, I told you that was what they were trying to make) is also quite good as the boss of the aforementioned mobster bastards. An interesting, if not clichéd premise (did no one already see this film when it was called Limitless and starred Bradley Cooper), Besson lacks any of his usual visionary tactics here. Yeah, he sends his protag back to the dawn of time, and we get all that Tree of Life birth of the universe stuff (and just like in Malick’s film, we even get some dinosaurs), and there is the quick asides that Besson often pops into his work, giving him a sort of old French New Wave feel, but overall we are left wanting. Wanting for something a bit more interesting. Wanting for something a bit more Bresson. Not a great movie, but also not a bad movie, Lucy ends up being just another piece of mediocre moviemaking by a director who should know better,could do better, and has in fact done better.
2.5 stars out of 5.