Luc Besson’s mildly entertaining “Lucy” is part-B action
movie and part-high-concept science fiction about the potential of the human
brain. It stars the sexy, doe-eyed Scarlett Johansson as the titular character
Lucy, a young, naïve American in China who gets caught up in some shady,
Lucy gets selected as a drug mule for a new drug (a
synthetic version of the drug CPH4, which allows someone to use more than 10
percent of their brain), and through certain circumstances, a large dose of it
gets into her body. Before long, she’s able to harness up to 100 percent of her
Johansson — who’s been on a roll acting-wise of late, in
films like “Under the Skin” and “Her” — gives a perfectly fine performance,
though nothing spectacular.
It ranges from huffy and panicky (at the beginning) to
robotic and wide-eyed. Johansson does a lot of intense staring because she’s
super-smart and focused all the time. She does have moments of greatness, like
when she’s trying to cope with her newfound abilities and understand them,
while slowly losing her humanness.
And this is where “Lucy” is most intriguing. Besson’s
screenplay addresses some extremely interesting concepts related to brainpower
and human biology. Basically, the main theory he puts forth is — delivered by
Morgan Freeman, whose talent is wasted as a brain scientist giving a Parisian
university lecture — that in our current state as humans, we create obstacles
for ourselves in the form of fear, pain, anxiety, etc., thereby limiting
ourselves and our full potential.
Being exposed to this drug has caused Lucy to eliminate
those obstacles, which is great on the one hand, but on the other, she loses
her humanness. She can’t feel pain or fear — hence, Johansson’s robotic
Unfortunately, as interesting as “Lucy” may be, Besson
decides to wrap the picture in a derivative, B-movie blanket that smothers the
picture’s potential to be truly memorable. Lucy essentially turns into another
super-gal: She acquires fist-fighting skills and eventually gets so smart that
she can control other humans and matter with her mind. And, of course, since
this is about an illegal drug, there are a lot of generic Chinese gangsters and
a forgettable French police officer who aids her.
Besson’s movie is a peculiar amalgamation of genres: There’s
some “Jason Bourne” in there, along with “The Matrix” and a dash of “ The Tree
of Life.” That Terrence Malick art film? Yep, that’s the one.
Not that there aren’t any mild, B-movie pleasures to still
be found. At 89 minutes, “Lucy” doesn’t wear out its welcome, and Besson keeps
the picture moving at a fast pace. Besson also has some fun with it, the
overall tone switching from intense drama/action to sheer goofiness, such as
the way Lucy casually and apathetically kills people or reads and comprehends
hundreds of hours of research and data in a matter of seconds.
Consequently, this prevents the audience from really caring
about any of the characters, but it also makes the movie fun in a
pulpy-action-movie way. As it is, had the film taken itself completely serious,
it would have been a bust.
Had Besson been more concerned with the intriguing themes
involving brainpower and brain usage, instead of action-movie tropes, “Lucy”
might have been great.
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