Once upon a time, Luc Besson was France’s foremost action director. Recently, he’s been more successful as a writer/producer, with guilty pleasures like Taken and Transporter to his credit, but it’s a long time since he directed anything of the calibre of Leon or The Fifth Element. Lucy is his attempt to swagger his way back into the big league and while it lacks the kinetic pleasures of his best efforts, it’s nonetheless an entertaining film with an intriguing premise.

Scarlett Johansson plays the eponymous heroine, a luckless student who finds herself tricked by her loser boyfriend into taking a suitcase stuffed with drugs to the hotel room of ruthless crime lord, Mr Jang (Min Sik-Choi). The assignment doesn’t go at all well and these early scenes of Lucy in the dragon’s den, intercut with images of prowling cheetahs hunting their prey, are confidently put together and the strongest moments in the film. Things get rather more complicated when Lucy finds herself the victim of a illicit operation with a bag full of drugs sewn into her intestine. When the bag ruptures, the contents spill through her system and (for reasons that aren’t convincingly explained) Lucy begins to use more and more of her brain’s capacity. Whereupon amazing things begin to happen…

Conveniently, Morgan Freeman is on hand as Professor Norman, an expert on human evolution, to deliver a lecture about what might happen should a human being’s brain power ever be increased. He is at pains to point out that at present, we only use 10 percent of our brains’ potential capacity. This is (apparently) complete nonsense, but don’t let that bother you too much, since it’s merely a device to enable Luc Besson to experiment with the old special effects. Apparently, taking too much of the mysterious drug can turn a meek young student into a kick-ass fighter, able to murder people without raising so much as an eyebrow and to make heavy objects move just by thinking about it.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t Luc Besson’s best film, not by a long shot, but it galumphs along like nobody’s business and it never drags. Meanwhile, Johansson is rapidly becoming this generation’s Marilyn Monroe – the camera adores her and she glides through the proceedings with such assurance, that the viewer barely has time to notice how silly the plot is. Ultimately, this is a partial return to glory for the Gallic action man, but we all know he can do better than this. Still, until another Leon comes along, this will have to do.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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