Lucy *** (out of five)
Luc Besson does not need to pitch. His production company, EuropaCorp, is a unique powerhouse, a hugely cashed-up independent studio with a creative lock on a particular style of English-language EuroTrash shoot-em-up that makes squillions of dollars in all corners of the globe. It is Besson’s fiefdom, where he concocts (often very slight) variations on a theme, casts from his repertory company of players (including golden boy Jason Statham, legendary luminary Jean Reno and a suite of Asian bad-asses) and farms them out to cheap directors who make films a la Besson. Very occasionally, he’ll direct one himself.
In this case, he’s taken his B movie formula and given it an A movie cast (well, two A list actors), a bigger than usual budget, and himself as director. If he did have to pitch it, Lucy would be described as “The Transporter meets Limitless meets Under The Skin.” The Transporter because it’s the same old chase around Europe (particularly Paris) with cars and guns, Limitless because it’s about someone who takes a drug and then can use all of their brain’s capability, and Under The Skin because it features Scarlett Johansson in “alien” mode and a lot of black gooey stuff.
It’s nowhere near as clever or well thought out as Limitless in coming to terms with its subject matter, the ending is appalling, and the same old chase stuff really is just the same old chase stuff, down to slow-motion machine-gun fights with Asian dudes in black suits and white shirts. It’s old hat.
But Johansson is in every scene and watching her be weird is great fun. She saves the movie through a combination of her extraordinary screen charisma and her total abandonment to odd, spasmodic choices. Besson knows the technical side of filmmaking so well that he seems to switch up styles for the sheer hell of it, utilising 70s zooms in an airport scene, say, probably because he watched Three Days of the Condor the night before. No-one shoots a Parisian car chase like him, and he’s capable of a garishly vulgar set piece; the set-up of the movie – the opening twenty or so minutes – is quite excellent. It’s total EuroTrash, but with a Scarlett sheen.