Lucy
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
90 mins; Class 15;
KRS Releasing Ltd

Flamboyant French film-maker Luc Besson is best known for his visually striking action films.

During the 1990s he created a number of memorable, strong female characters in hyper-realistic and violent worlds populated by ruthless criminals. These are personified with the title character in Nikita (1990), the 12-year-old Mathilda in Leon (1994) and Leeloo in The Fifth Element (1997).

Besson has been terribly busy since, keeping his finger in myriad projects as writer, director or producer and in Lucy he has created another anti-heroine to add to his cult characters.

Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy, an average student (well, as average as ScarJo can ever be), enjoying a sabbatical in Taiwan. Here she unwittingly becomes embroiled in a drug syndicate led by the ruthless Mr Jang (Choi Min Sik).

Worth watching for her performance alone

Jang orders his henchmen to surgically implant a package containing a powerful and dangerous new synthetic drug in her stomach, forcing her to smuggle the drugs into Europe.

When brutally attacked by her captors, the package leaks and the drugs are quickly absorbed into Lucy’s system. Before she knows it, she rapidly develops superhuman traits. With Jang and henchmen in tow, Lucy races to Paris seeking the help of Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) the world’s leading authority on the brain’s potential. She also hooks up with French police detective Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) to keep her pursuers at bay.

It has been an incredible year for the sultry Johansson and she brings to Lucy her trademark commitment. She tackles the role with unadulterated glee, easily and convincingly transforming from carefree student to frightened hostage to fearless warrior and effortlessly carrying the film on her shoulders.

Lucy disposes of her adversaries with consummate ease. She flicks gunmen out of her way like flies and empties magazine clips with a mere stare. She can learn a language in minutes and goes as far as to stop and control time as her brain capacity continues to grow inexorably.

She is in equal measure tough and vulnerable; droll and emotional and we root for her all the way. Our heart stops when she cold-bloodedly shoots dead a patient on an operating table, only to excuse her callous act by telling the horrified surgeons that the patient would have died anyway.

She continues to shoot, punch and use her brain power to stop her assailants and it is a compelling performance. The film is worth watching for her performance alone.

The story itself loses some momentum when it decides to be something much more profound than it actually is. Besson’s script tackles the widely-perpetuated myth that humans only use around 10 per cent of their brain capacity, and it asks what would happen if 100 per cent capacity can be reached, as Lucy’s brain races to that point.

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