Lucy doesn't kick too much gangster ass. But she does kick Reality's ass on many levels!
In the beginning of the film we see an image that one wouldn't expect from a Besson film - a prehistoric cave woman sitting by a river drinking. If you watched the trailer at all you know that this story involves the evolution of a girl's brain to the use of 100 percent. After the initial imagery I figured this wasn't going to be Luc Besson's usual shoot'em up female action film. I didn't even know the half of it.
There is no real character setup, initially. We are simply introduced to Lucy, played by Scarlett Jo-hotness, I mean Johansson - a student living abroad that has a shady boyfriend who wants her to deliver a briefcase to some 'people'. In minutes she's swept up into a world of organized crime, bloody fresh corpses and unwilling drug smuggling; all orchestrated by a Mr. Jang played by the exceptional Min-sik Choi. And the drug that she was carrying was some crazy blue stuff that even Walter White couldn't have cooked up in his lab. Breaking Bad? No? You should get on that! Through a painful event, the drug gets into Lucy's blood stream and she starts becoming more than your average girl.
Another thing I didn't expect from Besson was the periodic inter-cutting of metaphoric scenes like a cheeta and gazelle chase during Lucy's initial interaction with the goons of the mob. I immediately got a sense that Besson was expanding his way of storytelling as well as his subject matter.
As for Johansson, I loved her in the role. Besson's signature closeups took advantage of Scarlett's waves of emotion she expressed in the first act of the film. And that's good. Because once Lucy got the drug in her system she didn't express much emotion through the rest of the story. We did get to see Lucy become an expert killer with a gun though. But the action didn't last too long as the story started evolving as fast as Lucy's neurons in her brain. The cool gun-play was replaced with cool telekinesis, mind reading, and really fast typing. That always means a person is really smart in science fiction.
There was an urgency to the film, but the resolution to the story didn't seem to equal it. I can't quite say it was anti-climatic, but I wish it was more impacting. This could be because of one - the film catapulted into a cool episode of Morgan Freeman's Through The Wormhole TV series and left the Columbiana action behind. Or two - because Lucy was so powerful early on in the film that nothing seemed to be a real threat to her anymore except to reach her goal in time. It's just that the goal seemed less important than the journey, which was kind of incredible by the end of the film.
There were a couple points in the story that needed more of an explanation, but it didn't hurt the telling of it. Just some choppy moments. This may also have been because of Besson's choice of film style that went along with the inter-cuts I mentioned.
Just another mention of the cave woman in the beginning; the scene was very reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And the film swiftly unfolded like 2001, but with the subplot of mobsters. It was a unique polarity expressed in the nirvana like journey of Lucy and the lower-man efforts of the crime boss to get his drugs and kill this young woman. If you're going to mix a story about a girl, the Asian mafia and Quantum Physics, this is about the best you can do. I tip my afro-antenna to Besson in that his was a deep and thought provoking existential message based in a science fiction story. But it needed a more delicate execution which other classic films were able to achieve.
I'm hard pressed to give this a rating because I can't put my finger what the general scifi audience will not like about this film. But if you like theories about the purpose and existence of life, matter and the universe more than a hot girl with guns and telekinesis, then you might think that my rating of 3.25 out of 5 Cosmic Afros is too low. The trouble is I like both too. But if you want to see super-powered Johansson kick major ass from beginning to end then you're going to be very disappointed.
Side Note: I think that soon Scarlett will want to write her own science fiction story. This is the forth film in the last year that she's done that's based in science fiction. And 3 of those were hard scifi wrapped in some human experience - HER, UNDER THE SKIN, and now LUCY.