Art House Film Review: "Lucy" (2014, Starring Scarlett Johansson, Directed by Luc Besson)
The Visual Splendor Of This Film + ScarJo's Enthusiastic Performance Defy The Gaps In Logic And Reasoning To Make For An Enjoyable, If Scatterbrained, Ride
Luc Besson, you trickster you. So much to say about your latest film, yet so little. The fact that it straddles the line between art-house fare and hollow action thriller is something that's worth the price of admission alone. Oh, and of course, Scarlett Johansson who really ups the ante on her ballsy woman image and goes all Milla Jovovich on us here. That should come of no surprise since Besson also directed the Jovovich vehicle, 1997's "The Fifth Element." It displayed plenty of ass-kicking and mind-bending scenes that show the director's uncompromising aptitude for stylish and eye-popping FX with an angle toward female empowerment in his main protagonists.
Johansson, by extension, is another able addition to Besson's awesome preoccupation with empowered females that completely debunks them as subservient cookie-cutter mistresses, damsel-in-distresses or other stereotypical archetypes. It is by this notion that Besson succeeds completely. Where his film falls short is not in the execution of these elements but by the lofty applied science driven plot that runs through this movie. The comparisons between the plotline of this film and Neil Burger's 2011 Bradley Cooper starrer "Limitless" are frequent and maintain "Lucy" as wholly unoriginal as a vehicle for storytelling. The idea that Morgan Freeman's Professor Norman postulates that human beings use, at max, only 10% of their maximum brain functionality is a theoretical and empirical impossibility. Not only that, that same deeply flawed pseudoscience was applied to Burger's film and among many critics caused a rightful uproar on the interwebs. Oh, and did I mention that the result of Bradley Cooper's and Scarlet Johansson's supernatural powers/hyper-intelligence BOTH came as a result of the absent-minded ingestion of an experimental drug?
But, honestly, we all know that this film already had mass-market appeal spackled all over it without even knowing the plot because of Johansson exuding her sexiness and take-no-prisoners attitude in virtually every scene. Besson's intent was not to appeal to the film critic but to tweak a formula and bend it to his own lavish devices regardless if anything made remote sense. This is, decidedly, NOT the same filmmaker behind "Leon: The Professional." Or, maybe it is, with a tremendous dose of steroids and questionable plot devices. As critical as I am of this movie, I actually rather enjoyed it. For a film about acquiring unlimited knowledge, I found myself just going along for the ride and putting my guard down if just to blissfully enjoy it. I missed it theatrically because I was still transfixed after seeing Johansen's far more deep and impactful film "Under The Skin" which predated this film's release by 4 months.
Johansson, as an actress, has really come a long way since her breakout hit with Sofia Coppola's "Lost In Translation" and, while selective, she just couldn't say no to Marvel when she was gifted the role of comic book hero Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Well, who can blame her. If it allows her to line her coffers in order to give her the flexibility to make indie flicks, I am all for it. Any chance to see her milk her gifts in extraordinary ways is more than satisfying for me. I anxiously await what she chooses next.