LUCY starts with an intense sequence and never once lets up. SCARLETT JOHANSSON assumes the typical male action-hero role and totally delivers with her performance. LUC BESSON directs the relentless action, taking the action film genre into a completely strange and bold new realm. While the movie explores science-fiction territory I don’t think it’s for nerds only. The science behind the concept is really just an excuse to have insanely fun and over-the-top action sequences, allowing us to experience something new in a tired genre.
When we meet her, Lucy (Johansson) is definitely no action hero. She’s a typical person thrust into an atypical extreme situation. She is forced to smuggle drugs to the appropriate buyers. The twist here is the drug is an experimental one that let’s the user open the full potential of their brain. The story goes that we use a mere 10% of our brain’s capacity.The film answers the question: what happens when you unluck more potential? What skills would you unlock?
Whatever you can imagine, Besson went above that. LUCY doesn’t shy away. It goes there. And then it takes another step, taking it over the edge. Despite how ridiculous that may sound, the movie never verges into stupidity. You’re either on-board or you’re not. Besson doesn’t care if you’re ready for this. He’s going for it. And you either strap in and enjoy the ride – or you don’t. Either way, we get some of the boldest and most inventive action sequences seen since THE MATRIX.
Mad genius / filmmaker Luc Besson has reliably cranked out one great action movie after another since the 90s. He’s one of those unsung heroes of cinema. His films rarely get the spotlight, and he never takes credit or seeks approval. He juggles several projects each year – as writer, director, or producer. His main focus always seems to be on fun. What I really love about Besson is how he gets us to care so much about his characters in these clearly action-focused stories.
While Besson is largely responsible for the film’s success, I feel like the way out-there elements work because Scarlett Johansson works. She holds together what could be a super silly premise and forces us to believe. She is thrown into this frightening and deadly scenario ill-prepared. Her character has no experience with this level of danger. Her character arc takes her from helpess to lethal. I enjoyed each step of her evolution. I eagerly anticipated each phase of unlocking her brain’s potential. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The stage is set by Besson, but it wouldn’t work without Johansson’s execution.
NERD ALERT 2000: I wonder if LUCY was planned as a pseudo-sequel to LEON (THE PROFESSIONAL)? Imagine if NATALIE PORTMAN’s character grew up and was forced back into the underbelly of crime. She would have changed after THE PROFESSIONAL, but would still remember some of that earlier training from Leon, her father-figure hitman. Imagine if Portman thought this script was just too nuts and passed on it? They made some revisions, but kept the bazooka hallway explosion scene. I jest…
Besson’s created some cinema’s best female action heroes – from LA FEMME NIKITA to THE FIFTH ELEMENT (paving the way for Milla JOVOVICH to make eleventy billion RESIDENT EVILS). Thankfully, Besson continues this tradition of memorable ass-kickers with LUCY. Johansson’s character uses a variety of methods to dispatch the baddies, each one more inventive than the last. Johansson also nails the one-liners that are a requisite for a Hollywood action hero. To put it simply: she’s a badass. By the end of the movie, you’ll be begging for a sequel. I’d love to see Johansson step back into this role.
LUCY is so bold and outrageous it may alienate some viewers, but I really must commend the bravery of such choices. Even if you aren’t on board, these moments will be memorable. I’m not going to ruin the grand scope of this film, but I will say it’s best to just go with it.
If you’re a fan of Japanese anime you might be yelling at the screen, saying stuff like “It’s about time Hollywood does something like this”. With special effects today it’s possible to make an extremely surreal action movie. While an INCEPTION may come along, these sort of high concept movies are extremely rare. I love it when we get something beyond typical car chases, fist fights, and gun fights.
Something like LUCY – an original property not based on a comic book or another sequel to a tired franchise – is rare in today’s movie climate. Despite these non-qualifiers, LUCY hit the screens and made a ton of money. It held its own. I don’t even think Hollywood markets Besson’s name like they should. So the audience wasn’t driven to the cineplex by his involvment. I think it made money because of the female lead and the sci-fi concept. I think the success of LUCY surprised market analysts. I hope more original movies get a chance now. There’s got to be a point where the average movie goer gets sick and tired with the same movie repackaged as a new one each and every year.
If LUCY wanted to stand apart from the standard action flick, I think it greatly succeeded. I’m reminded of THE MATRIX and it’s Asian influences. The Wachowskis tried to capture what they loved from anime, manga, kung-fu, philosophy, and cyberpunk. They threw in such flavourful ingredients, blended them together, and made an awesome action-movie gumbo enjoyed by all. LUCY has that same strange blend of ingredients ultimately leading to a very satisfying dish… So dig in and enjoy something different.
What did you think?
Did LUCY go too far out there? Especially the beginning and ending sequences?
What did you think of the crimeboss (from OLDBOY) as a villain?
Would you have enjoyed a showdown with a drug-enhanced baddie? Or is that something better suited for sequel territory?
What did you think of the visuals?
What did you think of SCARLETT JOHANSSON as the lead in an action film? Should she go all Liam Neeson with this genre and pumo out a few more?
What’s the best LUC BESSON film?