(France - 2014)
Written and directed by Luc Besson. Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-Sik, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pilou Asbaek, Analeigh Tipton. (R, 89 mins)
Where most auteurs start with genre efforts to get their feet wet and mature into serious filmmaking, Luc Besson's career has largely been the exact opposite. Early films like LE DERNIER COMBAT (1983) and THE BIG BLUE (1988) exhibited art-house aspirations that culiminated in his 1990 classic LA FEMME NIKITA, which perfectly combined his artistic and commercial sensibilities. You could say the same for 1994's THE PROFESSIONAL, aka LEON, initially dismissed by most critics but now considered one of the best films of its decade. 1997's THE FIFTH ELEMENT has amassed a large cult following, though 1999's THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC was badly received and prompted Besson to take a lengthy sabbatical from directing. These days, Besson is best known for his EuropaCorp action assembly line that gave us Jason Statham's TRANSPORTER and Liam Neeson's TAKEN franchises, films directed by Besson proteges yet exhibiting all the signature stylings of their boss. After last year's disappointing gangster comedy THE FAMILY, Besson is making a quick return to American multiplexes with LUCY, which has enough scientific theorizing in it to make it seem like Besson's most ambitious film yet. Instead, it's his dumbest.
|"I'm in, Luc. No, don't send the script.
Not gonna read it anyway. Here's the account number."
TRANSCENDENCE?), has obviously stopped giving a shit and will apparently read whatever is handed to him. It's nice to see Choi doing some vintage OLDBOY screaming, but he has little else to do. LUCY might make an interesting companion piece to Johansson's recent UNDER THE SKIN as both films require her to rely on an otherworldly stare and an innate seductiveness (and both films have her utilizing a mysterious, undetermined black matter), but LUCY goes in an opposite direction as her character becomes more unemotional and alien as the story proceeds. And the comparisons end there. There's some amusing moments as Lucy experiments with her newfound powers, but such bits are few and far between, and even a big action sequence like a car chase is ruined by crummy, carelessly-executed CGI and gratuitous shaky-cam. Besson tries to make some grand, life-affirming points about humans living to their potential, which he probably intended as something profound and powerful, but instead comes across as an utterly tone-deaf lack of self-awareness.