One thing’s for sure about Luc Besson: the man sure does have a twisted sense of humor. Whether in last year’s The Family or 1997’s The Fifth Element, Besson just can’t help but find hilarity in gratuitous violence and wanton bodily harm; even the films the French action auteur touches only in his capacity as a co-writer/producer, like the Transporter films, Wasabi, District 13, and McG’s more recent 3 Days to Kill show hints and shades of his gleeful, infectious, thoroughly black comedic styling.
So it stands to reason that Lucy, his newest forthcoming enterprise, will follow more or less the same tract, though its subject matter leaves a little less room for laughs. The film puts Scarlett Johansson in the title role as a young woman living in Taipei, forced into being a drug mule for the local mob; the narcotics she stores in her stomach leak into her system, and, before she can say “holy 10% of brain myth”, the formerly hapless heroine starts developing superpowers thanks to rapidly increasing access to the full, latent powers of her mind.
And wouldn’t you know it, just over two weeks ahead of the film’s release, Universal has generously posted two new clips for Lucy‘s promotion online; the first is a featurette that goes behind the scenes on the film’s production, the second a full scene preview from the movie. Both pieces of footage should allay any doubts that Besson might check his typical playfulness at the door. Just look at the delight he takes in destroying the Sorbonne in a hail of machine gunfire (take that, higher education!), or in having Johansson snipe a taxi driver in the leg for intimidation purposes.
The featurette is the more revealing of the two clips; setting seems to be quite key for Lucy‘s narrative, at least from a filming standpoint. Paris puts Besson well into his comfort zone – it’s the place where he’s happiest shooting, it seems – while Taipei lets him revisit a past stomping ground, as he apparently visited the city back when he was making The Fifth Element. (He mostly shot that picture in the UK and Iceland, but presumably used Taiwan’s capital for design and world building inspiration.)
But as interesting as all of that background is, the red band sequence (titled “Escape”) winds up being more fun by far, even if it merely builds upon what we’ve seen in previously released teasers and trailers. The moment takes place ostensibly after Lucy has begun her transformation from victim to badass; she suckers in a thug, takes him out, guns down all of his compatriots in the blink of an eye, and hitches a ride to the hospital through threat of injury.
While the entire ordeal isn’t too red, it’s certainly red enough – Lucy squeezes a bullet out of her shoulder without even wincing – but it’s also remarkably tight in its execution. Besson knows his action, and he knows how to sell us on Lucy’s progressing prowess. We barely even see the shot that hits her, but it’s there, hidden in between the reports from the muzzle of her own pistol. There’s something morbidly amusing about Lucy’s nonchalant demeanor, her relaxed attitude toward popping spent ammunition from her flesh; Johansson, too, seems pretty calm given the circumstances, but she feels surprisingly natural as an action star (and has, ever since playing Black Widow in The Avengers and Iron Man 2).
And all of this takes place very early in the film’s (brief) running time, so one can only imagine the extent of mayhem Besson has in store for audiences with Lucy. Maybe that 10% myth is just that – complete nonsense perpetuated through a game of cultural telephone – but if it takes an urban legend to get Besson to engage with 100% of his penchant for creative carnage, then so be it.
Lucy opens in theaters on July 25th, 2014.