DVD Review: 'Lucy'

★★★★☆
In recent years, Luc Besson has become most recognisable for churning out a raft of money-spinning but largely forgettable euro-flavoured actioners from his EuropaCorp studio. That has been to the detriment of his own directorial output (which has become increasingly lacklustre of late), and then along comes this screamingly ridiculous, hugely entertaining pulpy sci-fi yarn, Lucy (2014). It plays like an amped up version of Limitless (2011), rebranded as a frenetic, anything-goes comic book jaunt with a smattering of anthropological, David Attenborough-like inserts. This is a mesmerising return to form for the filmmaker, crafted with an eccentric playfulness evident in his earlier (and best) work.

But Besson hasn't abandoned the high-concept big thrills blueprint with which he's build his empire. He still plays to that audience's expectations, and a jaw-dropping high speed race against time through the crowded streets of central Paris is a giddy and flawless mix of in- camera stunt work and GC compositing. There is balance, though, with a desire to engage and offer some through-provoking moments amongst the carnage. It's also a relief that Scarlett Johansson doesn't transform arbitrarily into some balletic action heroine in the Milla Jovovich mode. She plays a naïve American traveller in Taiwan who is unwittingly coerced into ferrying a new, extremely potent mind-altering drug to Europe. Assaulted on her journey back west, she ingests the massive quantity of narcotics stitched inside her.

Instead of dying, she transcends into a superhuman state, with her brain capacity accelerating at an alarming speed, unleashing all manner of previously dormant extra-sensory power. Hunted by the crime lord who orchestrated her passage (Choi Min-sik of Oldboy (2003) fame) Lucy is forced to track down a respected elderly scientist (exposition funnel Morgan Freeman) who may be able to stop her from succumbing to cerebral overload. Already versed in portraying a haunting, otherworldly figure evidenced in last year's Under the Skin (2013), Johansson remains both admirably straight-faced and completely committed to her character's outlandish predicament. It's the actress's vulnerability and Lucy's sense of impending mortality which allows the audience to make that leap with her. The real star of the show is Besson, however, who pulls out all the visual stops; the deliriously over-the-top denouement is testament to how far he is willing to push his unhinged vision. Lucy feels like the work of a filmmaker who has recovered his mojo. A healthy suspension of disbelief is an absolute requirement here, but if you're willing to get on board, a joyous and demented popcorn romp awaits you.

Adam Lowes | @adlow76

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