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Scarlett Johansson is Lucy in this darkly humorous treat from Luc Besson. It has to be said that this film will not appeal to everyone. Only true Besson fans will enjoy this film, although many may not understand the parallels that run throughout the entire movie. However, if those viewers who loved Fifth Element and its music, which guided events to the end of the film, see his latest effort, they will most surely love it.
The screening at the AMC Town Square 18 cinema was attended by a mix of V.I.P.’S, press and lucky cinema fans who got early access to the film. Not every press member (spelt C.R.I.T.I.C.) was overly enamoured of the film or its abrupt and somewhat ambiguous ending. However all agreed that the music sells the film. When asked by another audience member about the movie and its ending, this reviewer shrugged and said, “It is Luc Besson.” That short phrase is all that is necessary to explain the film’s eclectic and enjoyable approach to the storyline.
In essence the story is about Lucy, a young lady whose male friend dupes her into delivering a briefcase, “with papers” to a Mr. Jang, played by Min-sik Choi (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, I Saw the Devil). Jang turns out to be a drug smuggler who decides to use Lucy as a mule to take his product and distribute it. The drug, CPH4, is something that is produced by pregnant mother’s while the baby is still in the womb and it is responsible for the foetus’s growth spurt.
Lucy is attacked by a captor after having a packet of the drug surgically implanted in her abdomen and the contents spill into her body.The powdered drug is then ingested by her body causing her to undergo dramatic changes in terms of brain power. Essentially, the drug makes her brain cells multiply at an accelerated rate increasing the amount of her brain that she uses. Lucy approaches neuroscientist Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) and Interpol detective Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) for help. Norman to help her understand what is happening and Del Rio to help her get the rest of the packets of CPH4.
The beginning of Lucy by Luc Besson has Scarlett Johansson as a “typical” young person who is more interested in her day-to-day existence than the bigger picture of world events. It is apparent that despite her living in Taipei, Taiwan she is quite naive in matters of the world. After her run-in with Mr. Jang her life changes dramatically and Johansson makes the audience believe wholeheartedly that Lucy has changed and is a combination of increased intelligence and, at first, a frightened young lady who is having a hard time keeping up with the way that she is evolving. This later changes as Lucy learns about her incredible new “powers.”
Besson has a brilliant knack for getting the best out of all his performers. Perhaps because he picks the right ones for each role. Min-sik Choi is brilliant as the dispassionate and deadly Korean drug lord; this actor is a real powerhouse in his home country and it was very satisfying to see him in a “Hollywood” film. His good friend and colleague Kang-ho Song (The Quiet Family, Thirst, The Host) just recently had his “Hollywood” debut in Snowpiercer this year as well. Both men are mesmerizing on film and both Choi and Song need to be in more U.S. productions.
Master of gravitas Morgan Freeman, who also starred in a similar film of human “mind expansion” Transcendence earlier this year, played the neuroscientific professor who gives a long presentation at the first of the film. This lecture is interspersed with the action taking place with Lucy and it serves the plot well. Later when Lucy approaches Norman, Freeman’s character, it already feels like the two have a history, although they do not.
The lecture, although broken up, also looks like the most enjoyable presentation ever attended. Not only does it have Mr. Freeman delivering the information, but the media accompaniment was very entertaining as well. Throughout the film, director Besson uses images to either enhance what was happening in the main scene or to present a juxtaposition between what was happening with two parallel scenes. For example, when Lucy goes into the building to take Mr. Jang the briefcase, her uneasy interaction with the gangsters is intermixed with scenes of a gazelle being stalked and killed by lions.
Later in the film, when Lucy has moved up to using an incredible 80 or 90 percent of her brain, she is busy accessing, building and amassing information about what she is learning. While she is doing this, the lesser evolved people in the building; the Korean gangsters, headed by Mr. Jang and the police, lead by Pierre Del Rio are engaging in a pretty spectacular shootout.
Putting aside the fact that, in reality, the 10 percent myth of human’s brain usage is just that, a myth – or at the very least, a simplification – and that some of the “science” in the film may not quite pan out, Luc Besson’s Lucy is a great ride. Scarlett Johansson is a treat as yet another different character for this multi-faceted actress and it seems that there is no role that she cannot masterfully pull off. Besson uses music to the maximum extent possible to pull the audience along and guide them in the right direction to help them “get the movie.” Lucy opens in cinemas across the country on July 25. While not everyone’s cup of tea, the film is worthy of a look just for the combination of Johansson, Choi, Morgan and Besson. This film is humorous, intelligent, fanciful and fun, and not to be taken too seriously.
By Michael Smith
AMC Town Square 18