“Lucy” Movie Review

     After several successful producing ventures with his production company, EuropaCorp, Luc Besson returns to the director’s chair with “Lucy”, a cross genre thriller starring Scarlett Johansson.  As a director, Besson had several notable hits early in his career, including “La Femme Nikita” (1990), “Leon: The Professional” (1994), “The Fifth Element” (1997).  Those three films alone indicate Besson more than knows his way around an action film and the fact he wrote all three as well means he’s more than capable of conjuring up interesting and unique stories.  While “Lucy” is a spastic, unorthodox take on similar material last seen in the 2011 Bradley Cooper film “Limitless”, Besson intends on answering, in his own way, the question: What would a human be capable of if they were able to use 100% of their brain’s power.

     The resulting film borrows greatly from a number of science fiction films, most obviously “The Matrix”, but also channels several others as well.  Scarlett Johansson’s “Lucy” is duped into delivering a briefcase to Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), a high level mobster involved in the creation of a new designer drug.  In order to deliver the contents of the briefcase to a number of European countries for distribution, Jang forces Lucy, as well as several other people he has recruited, to have a kilo of the drug surgically implanted into their stomachs.  Each will then board a plane for their respective country and will be met by one of his men to facilitate the surgical removal of the drugs.  For the majority of the first act, Besson plays with this scenario, injecting a number of purposely humorous moments as it is clear he does not intend for this material to be taken seriously.  This is probably a good strategy, as the proceedings quickly transition from a drug trafficking crime thriller to a preposterous science fiction action film with the reckless abandon of the film’s namesake.

     Intercut throughout the initial scenes is a presentation given to a room full of academics and scientists by Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman).  Norman has made a career of studying the theories related to the ability of the human brain to function using more of its overall capacity.  He tells the group just slight increases in the overall percentage a person can use (humans are said to use 10% at any given time) would allow them to do everything from complicated calculations to actually controlling electrical impulses.  As Lucy proves, Norman is mostly correct.  Once Lucy arrives at her destination, she is beaten badly by a group of goons in a prison cell.  When she falls into a fetal position and is kicked directly in the stomach, the pouch holding the drugs breaks open inside her and allows the drug to flow in mass quantity directly into her system.

     The reaction her body has immediately causes a seizure that has her somehow magnetized to the concrete walls of her cell, as she slides up the walls and to the ceiling in much the same way Linda Blair did in “The Exorcist”.  Once she overcomes the initial effects, Lucy seems to realize her increased brain power.  I suppose someone would notice something like this simply because your consciousness would know what you are capable of and thus you would just act, rather than hesitate.  Lucy is now transformed into a cross between Ripley from the “Alien” films and “Carrie”, with her ability to move people and objects.  Johansson spends the rest of the film delivering each line deadpan, as if she were now Jean Claude Van Damme from “Universal Soldier”.  She now has an array of elite martial arts skills and firearms marksmanship and is virtually unstoppable.  If a bullet does hit her, she simply reaches into the hole it caused and pulls out the fragment.  She feels no pain.

     As an audience, we’re given the percentage score each time her brain capacity increases.  With each increase, Lucy exhibits a new ability she didn’t have minutes before.  When she successfully finds Professor Norman, Lucy is able to project her image on every electronic device in his hotel room and promptly informs him she has read and completely comprehended all 20 years of his research.  From here, Besson moves the film into far reaching plot territory to put it lightly.  Lucy is seemingly no longer human and is clearly evolving into something else entirely.  Jang continues to be relentless throughout the film in his pursuit of Lucy and the drugs she possesses.  At one point, Lucy effectively befriends a skeptical police detective and this allows Besson to include the obligatory car chases and running gun battles he is famous for.

     Obviously the thought of a person having the ability to use 100% of their brain power is, in reality, uncharted territory.  You get the feeling a screenwriter could really come up with any outlandish story and the audience would have no choice but to accept it since they would be unable to disprove the resulting scenario with any kind of fact or standing.  Besson certainly feels that way, as his film delves into the bizarre and unbelievable well before the story enters its third act.  This isn’t to say there is anything fundamentally wrong “Lucy”; however, it is imperative one approaches the film with a complete suspension of disbelief.  Otherwise, plot holes will open up bigger than the Grand Canyon and you’re apt to dismiss the entire thing as ridiculous.  GRADE: C+