Art & Culture

Although it may foolish of me to expect a Luc Besson to contain a grain of sense, coherence or logic, there is still something profoundly irritating about a film that seems to regard silliness and laziness as something fun and enjoyable. As dead-eyed Scarlett Johansson (aka Lucy) wanders around Taiwan and Paris casually shooting people (though later she only has to look at them), my willingness to suspend credibility was only exceeded by her capacity to suspend bad guys in mid-air without any noticeable exertion.

Back to the beginning. Lucy is an innocent student in the Far East on her way home. The guy she's been seeing for a few days tries to persuade her to take a suitcase into a hotel, but she refuses. So he snaps it to her wrist with a padlock. Rather than heading for the nearest locksmith to have it removed, she goes into the hotel, where we know she is in danger. How do we know? Because the film edits in scenes of a cheetah stalking, pursuing and pulling down a deer. No room for ambiguity here.

A few bloodstained bodies later, she has her stomach slit open and a packet of some blue crystals stuck inside her, and she's being sent as an unwilling drug mule. But this drug has unforeseen properties, and when she gets kicked in the stomach (you know how nasty these anonymous Asian heavies are), the drug leaks into her system, and all hell (or heaven) breaks loose. In another outbreak of clumsiness, Besson has also been giving us scenes from a lecture at which Dr Basil Exposition aka Sam Norman (aka Morgan Freeman) is expounding upon the fact that humans only use 10% of their cerebral capacity, and that if they were able to increase that to 20% or more, the potential is limitless (NB, that is an intentional reference to the film of the same name, and similar plot).

For you will have guessed that the drug which is melting inside Lucy is going to raise her cerebral capacity way over the 20% level, and she will, in effect, become Superwoman – only without the lycra. She winds up in Paris, pursued by the remainder of the Asian heavies who she has not disposed of, and accompanied by a French cop, whose purpose is – I imagine – to remind French audiences that this is nominally a French film.

The film makes the point that Lucy was the name of our earliest ancestor, although more accurately, it is the name that was given to her by a modern scientist. More relevantly, Lucy is not a million miles from Besson's first name, Luc. And it's hard to avoid the suspicion that there is more than a dash of wish fulfilment here, as well as a great big dollop of imitation. Not just Limitless, but the more recent Johnny Depp turkey, Transcendence. Both these films were aiming to make some kind of profound statement about what we might become if all of our untapped potential was unlocked,. By comparison with Lucy, they are masterpieces of lucidity and intelligence.

Besson is a director of very little talent, whose continued career owes a great deal to producing rubbish which engages audiences at the lowest level. Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you (in no particular order), Subway, The Fifth Element, The Lady, The Family, any number ofTransporter films, and the series of foreigner-slaughtering bodge jobs under the collective name of Taken. They're all dreadful – and popular. Lucy wastes a perfectly good leading actress in Johansson, who simply disappears in the absence of any discernible character; uses wild life footage and clunky CGI; and combines slow motion shoot outs with metaphysical bletherings.

By all means go and see it, if you've rented your brain out to a slow-witted friend for the weekend, or better still, let the friend go and see it. There's nothing going on, apart from a lot of casual violence (laced with racism), and a complete lack of grasp of the basic elements of film making.


Phil Raby 

Front Row Films 

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