Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Coerced by her sleazy boyfriend into dropping off a mysterious briefcase, Lucy suddenly finds herself kidnapped and forced to be a drug mule for an underworld crime syndicate. While transporting a highly secretive new synthetic drug, the bag that was surgically placed in her lower abdomen begins to leak, unleashing inconceivable changes to her body, including the vast expansion in her cerebral capacity. With assistance from one of the leading theorists on the human mind and a French police captain, Lucy harnesses her newly found powers to take vengeance on her ruthless kidnappers while unlocking some our universe’s most complex mysteries.
For better or worse, filmmaker Luc Besson has always danced to the beat of a different drummer. Some of his unique creations like The Fifth Element and Leon: The Professional have found cult status reputations, while other more recent efforts have been labeled abysmal failures. As I was bombarded with the sensory overload of his latest action sci-fi orgy, I was forced to concede that Lucy is excessively absurd even for a filmmaker as eccentric Besson. Anyone familiar with his work knows that he has quite the infatuation with exaggerated action and violence. Unfortunately, Lucy takes that obsession to brainlessly new levels. Hoards of henchmen and police officers materialize almost out of thin air, each armed with enough firepower to level city blocks, yet they manage to miss each other from twenty yards away. Crime boss Mr. Yang, played by Oldboy star Min-sik Choi, has knives plunged straight through his hands, causing injuries that would require serious medical attention. Yet mere days later, Mr. Yang is seen sporting the most basic of hand bandages while still possessing a full range of motion to unleash a hail of bullets from his pair of handguns.
As it has been pointed out ad nauseam, the science involved in Lucy is inherently flawed and imprecise. Besson builds the film’s story around the ten percent brain myth, a falsely-premised theory originated during the late 19th century that has long since been disproven. In the film, as Lucy’s cerebral capacity continues to grow, so does her understanding of the world around her and her ability to control other humans, objects, and even electronic waves and data. Unfortunately, the closer she gets to this “100% brain capacity” the more implausibly nonsensical her transformations become. At one point her cells inanely begin to dissolve like grains of sand, only to be magically regenerated by the consumption of more of this miraculous drug. Lucy cultivates the ability for altering and manipulating time, an inexplicable talent that leads to the film’s climactic conclusion that is one of the most comically preposterous renderings ever envisioned in a science fiction movie. Saying that, I must admit being mesmerized by Besson’s sheer audacity for thinking he could actually make Lucy in this day and age. A premise like this might have passed the laugh test a couple of decades ago, but in 2014, with all the information and knowledge we have right at our fingertips, he had to know many would take umbrage with his blatant disregard for scientific credibility.
Lucy adds yet another singular layer to Scarlett Johansson’s already varied year in film. A role as supernaturally enhanced as this runs the risk of coming off as dreadfully campy and unwatchable if the actress playing her doesn’t fully commit. Luckily, Johansson’s portrayal transcends the ineptitude of the overall project. Her performance early in the film, while a bit melodramatic, is deliberately airbrained and meekly vulnerable to bolster and contrast her drug induced, superhuman metamorphosis. Some have raised concerns about Johansson’s dispassionately detached portrayal post overdose. For me, I found it to be a plausible interpretation of what would happen to a person if, as her character states, everything that makes her human—pain, fear, desire—begins to fade away. Lucy will probably be seen as a failure, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many who would blame Johansson’s performance for that as she manages to surmount the puerility of her character, offering a portrayal that is surprisingly engrossing.
Lucy is one of the most ambitiously preposterous nonsense films of recent memory. To fully grasp the depths of its imaginative and outlandish conjectures and theorems is something that can only be experienced firsthand. However, as dumbfounded as I felt walking out of my showing, I was just as…amused by Besson’s brazen chutzpah for even attempting such a film. Equal parts wonderment and stupidity, Lucy is an audacious and ambitiously witless failure filled with a cornucopia of eye-catching visuals that manages to raise a few interesting questions about the mysteries surrounding our mind and the universe.-JL