Scarlet Johannson has had a very strong, but somewhat strange year. Back in March we saw her in Under The Skin, a bizarre low-budget meditation on alienation and sci-fi from English film-maker Johnathan Glazer. Then in April she tore up the big screen alongside Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film which, until recently, was the highest grossing theatrical release of the year. And now, she’s here, pairing up with Fifth Element, Léon and Taken director and writer Luc Besson for a third science fiction role in action romp Lucy. One after the other, that’s an impressive and varied resumé, and with each one being a leading role, no easy undertaking. Scarlet has obviously worked hard to set herself from the pack as an actress, not to be shackled down as a co-star for bigger stars, and not to be easily type-cast either. She’s done the leading smaller role, she’s done the big ensemble star, and now she’s going to prove that on name and reputation alone she can lead an action film just as well as anyone else in the genre. While the film itself is a bit hit or miss, she certainly proves her leading status.
As a concept, it’s difficult to talk about Lucy without admitting that the idea is, well, a little daft, to say the least. Basically, through a series of unfortunate events, Scarlet’s Lucy ends up ingesting a drug that allows her to access, gradually, 100% of her brain activity. The means by which she ingests this substance and gains access to all this extra brain juice is a touch nefarious and so a revenge story is born of her new-found superism. At the core of the narrative is this question of what would actually happen if someone’s brain suddenly had this vault of knowledge and power opened? And although there’s the obvious wicked action scenes and bizarre transformation sequences that provide an answer physically, the meta-physical question is answered by one Morgan Freeman, whose high-up intellectual is hosting a neurology lecture during the time period of the events of the film, providing a coincidental and helpful narration to keep us in the loop and push forward the next stage for our heroine. While all a nice neat package, its also a very contrived one.
That is to say, the overall story and events all being happily coincidental and mostly 2 -dimensional is a bad thing on most days, with most films, but this is an area Luc Besson has proven to do with exceedingly fun results. I mean, we’re talking about the man who has done Taken, The Transporter and Léon – three of the best action films of the last two decades. He all but started Jason Statham’s film career, which has now landed him as a co-pilot to Stallone’s Expendables trilogy, and made Liam Neeson relevant to a whole new generation with a by-the-numbers revenge film that contains one of the most iconic monologues in cinema history. By the books silly, ridiculous action films are something that Besson just knows how to put together, and he knows the exact kind of actors that excel in them, of which Scarlet is absolutely one. She commands the screen with ease, maintaining the cold, calculating devolution of her psyche right through to the dizzyingly colorful conclusion that clearly echos of a large special-effects budget. In fact, the only glaring flaw in the formula is the mis-guided end sequence that just comes out of left-field and takes up time that would have been better served with a large and destructive shoot-out, given the setting and set-up.
If you want a fun trip to the cinema, Lucy is absolutely the film for you. Tipping in at just over 85 minutes, there’s no extra frills other than exactly what you know is already on offer. The acting is passable, the script a touch bumpy and the story fast-paced to cover up the obvious plot-holes and inconsistencies. Johannson has already proven herself a formidable presence in any part of the screen, leading small or large productions with ease. Now, she’s taken the leap to make sure that on name alone she can fill seats, in a film that wouldn’t be anywhere as good without her and whose release time could have been box office suicide. Here’s to more of her sooner rather than later.
Daft but fun sci-fi action romp. 7/10