Lucy Movie Review
“The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Today she will hit 100%.”
This is the tagline promoting the new Luc Besson film LUCY starring Scarlet Johannson. I’m no scientist, but from what I understand, that phrase is complete nonsense that has become more of a folklore from urban legend rather than scientific theory. Unfortunately, the defining parameters of this phrase also happens to be the basic premise of the film. Depending on your ability to suspend belief and accept this falsehood presented as fact, will probably be the ultimate factor on your enjoyment level of LUCY. My advice, don’t look at it too deeply and you will thoroughly enjoy the style and the unusual ride through the brisk 90 minute picture.
Standing outside a large building in Taiwan, Lucy’s week long boyfriend tells her he has to deliver this case. He asks her to go inside and do it for him and he will split the $1000 payment. Lucy’s not a complete fool, telling the guy to take a hike. He quickly handcuffs the case to her wrist, thrusting Lucy into a dangerous unknown world. The moments that follow are fast and frantic with each action adding suspense and intrigue as to what crazy thing might happen next. Eventually, the extremely frightened Lucy is forced to become a drug mule by carrying a newly untested product inserted in her abdomen. After being kicked repeatedly, the packaged drug breaks open and begins to absorb through Lucy’s body. The side effect: a short seizure that pulls the body in gravity defying ways while briefly turning the eyes liquid blue. More importantly, the brain gradually opens to its full capacity, unlocking a superhuman power with endless possibilities.
Intercut throughout the film, we learn of the brains capacity through Professor Norman, played by Morgan Freeman. He teaches a classroom and the audience of just what we might be capable of if we were able to use a higher percentage of our brain. Eventually, as the number moves higher, the possibilities become “science fiction.” Like Norman’s explanation, LUCY gradually morphs from a drama suspense to an outright science fiction film. Besson keeps things light by editing in stimulating visuals and funny parallels between primitive nature and our own human responses. Every time, I began to questioned the film not playing by its own rules, it would surprise me with immediate answers. Lucy’s character grows with the film. When I questioned the lack of emotion – Lucy expresses her overabundant feelings to her mother in a very intense phone call. When I questioned Lucy’s necessity to fight – an inventive action scene appears that literally removes the action. Toward the ending, LUCY borders on taking itself too seriously while simultaneously becoming too silly, but the short runtime and overall experience keeps the film from jostling completely out of place.
Scarlett Johannson as the title character, brings a believability and rawness to the role that otherwise might get lost. She is a true asset to the film, keeping it from being too hokey. Averaging about three films a year, Johannson is truly becoming a major Hollywood star. I’m fearful she might be overexposing herself but her talent keeps surprising me. From her voice work in last year’s HER to her big budget action work as Black Widow in THE AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Johannson is proving she can do it all. LUCY showcases the actor’s talent again as her character changes drastically and reveals several different emotions in completely unusual ways.
Writer/director Luc Besson is responsible for one of my favorite films of all time, 1994’s LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL. He followed that up with an entertaining fantastical thrill ride in 1997’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Since then, other than having his hand in a few key screenplays (TAKEN, THE TRANSPORTER, LOCKOUT), Besson hasn’t directed anything of significance (last year’s forgettable THE FAMILY for instance). But thankfully, that has all changed as the director is back in high octane action. Exploring his roots from 1990’s LA FEMME NIKITA and mixing in a little sci-fi MATRIX flavoring with a touch of LIMITLESS mentality, LUCY is an exhilarating joy, albeit a bit silly, heightened by another strong performance from Scarlett Johannson.