Your capacity to enjoy Lucy may deal with your willingness on what to do with your brain capacity while viewing it. It’s a ludicrous concoction of science fiction and action that nonetheless provides yet another showcase for Scarlett Johannson’s talents. And another for Luc Besson, known more lately for his involvement in the Taken franchise than his earlier work. That previous work included 1997’s The Fifth Element which I count among my favorite guilty pleasure flicks of the last two decades. Thankfully Lucy contains a similar spirit. It isn’t every picture that manages to weave familiar shoot em ups with Asian gangsters and a scene with a dinosaur. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, leave this alone. If you appreciated that bizarre giant blue alien creature singing opera mixed with techno in the aforementioned Fifth Element, Lucy has that kinda vibe from time to time.
The title character is played with gusto by Johannson. When we first are introduced to her, she’s a college student in Taiwan who’s tricked into making a drug delivery to a dastardly man known as Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik). Turns out it’s not your regular narcotics drop when she’s knocked out and a mysterious substance makes its way into her stomach. The synthetic drug know as CPH4 soon gives her capabilities not thought humanly possible and she begins accessing portions of her brain in a…. shall we say limitless fashion? 10%. 50%. 99%. We know because flash cards show us where we are at in Lucy’s cerebral uptick clock while the bad guys try to chase her down.
Oh… And there’s Morgan Freeman as a professor who kinda knows about this stuff. Clearly he’s cast because what student wouldn’t wanna listen to him drone on about scientific gobbledygook all day? My theory is Lucy could have picked lots of people to partner with, but her extreme intelligence led her to the best voice.
Interestingly, Besson’s take is that the more smart you become – the less empathetic you are. When her brain function is just beginning to increase, she cares enough to make what she believes to be her last call to her parents and provide medical assistance to her unhealthy roommate. Soon though, her actions lead to massive car pileups and rows of innocent dead people that she couldn’t seem to give a flip about. I suppose if it weren’t that way, we wouldn’t get the violent scenes we need every few minutes.
Lucy clips along at a quick runtime of an hour and a half. Nothing about the gunplay (which has an occasional Matrix-y vibe) brings much new to the table. What causes this to be worthwhile in my eyes is the vibrant central performance and Besson’s devil may care, throw in the kitchen sink and dinosaur sighting attitude that I missed. He knows this premise is as silly as The Fifth Element before it. Somehow he’s able to make it fun.
*** (out of four)