Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pilou Asbæk, Analeigh Tipton, Nicolas Phongpheth.
Written and directed by Luc Besson.
They say we only use ten percent of our brains. I’m pretty sure mine dips to nine percent from time to time, as well as most commuters on the freeway, but that’s beside the point. Brain usage is the subject of Lucy, a new film written and directed by Luc Besson.
Scarlett Johansson stars in the title role as Lucy, a party-girl exchange student living in Taiwan. As the film opens she is duped into delivering a metal case of synthetic drugs to an Asian cartel leader named Mr. Park (Min-sik Choi). Once inside the building, she is taken hostage, beaten and drugged. When she awakens, she discovers a surgical wound and is informed that she’s been implanted with a bag of the drugs in her belly. She and three other “mules” are tasked with delivering the drugs to various European cities by Mr. Park, or their loved ones will pay the price.
Before Lucy can take her journey, she is accosted by one of Park’s henchmen and the bag of drugs inside her ruptures. The drug, it turns out - is a chemical that induces the expansion of the brain – so Lucy automatically gains super powers that enable her to escape her captors. With increased brain capacity, she quickly researches the science behind her new powers via the Internet, and discovers the leading expert on the subject of brain capacity is Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), who happens to be in Rome for a seminar. Lucy uses her brain power to contact Norman through the Internet, and tells him she’s on her way. She does the same to contact an Italian police detective named del Rio (Amr Waked) to inform him of where the other mules are headed, so that their drug packets can be picked up (she intends to use the other packets to expand her brain usage to 100 percent). When she arrives in Rome, so does Mr. Park and his small army, setting up one of those “Besson-esque” gun battles in a hallway as Lucy expands her brain into the great unknown, with the help of Prof. Norman.
Lucy is a unique film that is much more than a “mind power” parlor trick. Luc Besson uses more special effects than he did in The Fifth Element (1997) to create a narrative that explores the existential roots of life. Interspersed throughout the movie are visual metaphors, like a cheetah hunting a gazelle as Lucy falls prey to the drug scheme. There are even deeper visuals as Lucy’s brain expands into a consciousness that seeks to pinpoint the origin of life.
These deep reflections make Lucy interesting and thought-provoking – but also take away from the action, tension and suspense of the story.
Besson’s Lucy has a lot to say about life – and perhaps too much for a story about a woman who is trying to overcome the weirdest overdose imaginable – in a world filled with drug lords and other distractions.
Even so, I thought Johansson’s performance was good enough to keep me interested in the outcome of the movie, and the action scenes were up to par with other Besson films.
You may not be required to use more of your brain to understand what Besson is trying to say, but you can rely on a little dumb action to keep Lucy entertaining. If watching Lucy causes your brain to slip into nine percent territory, at least you're still safe to drive on the freeway.