Scarlett Johansson Uses 100% Of Her Brain To Fight Bad Guys In The Highly Illogical Thriller, Lucy.
Director: Luc Besson.
Writer: Luc Besson.
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi.
Where it's playing: Everywhere.
Writer, director and producer Luc Besson usually gets a pass for his fearless and innovative style of hyper-action filmmaking. Here’s a filmmaker who really goes for broke outside the Hollywood norm, and most of the time it’s highly entertaining. La Femme Nikita, Léon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, Taken and Danny the Dog (Unleashed in the states) are a few of the films he’s either written or directed (or both) that bring something new to the genre and moviegoers can really enjoy.
All of these have the right amount of gritty action and a logical enough storyline for the audience to play along. However, there are things he’s tried that have flatlined faster than Joel Schumacher’s career — a reboot of his own work (the dreadful Brick Mansions), endless sequels that seem to get worse until they are intolerable (Taken 2, Transporter 2 and 3, Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds), and one-offs that don’t seem comfortable in his niche of filmmaking.
This brings me to his latest action-adventure, Lucy, a pretty determined movie that misleads and ends up being pretty silly. Starring Scarlett Johansson as the titular character, Lucy ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her new boyfriend strong-arms her into delivering a brief case to a powerful man named Mr. Jang (Oldboy’s super slick Min-sik Choi). She, along with the audience, doesn't know what’s in the briefcase, but since it’s handcuffed to her arm, it’s a clear indication it’s dangerous.
Shortly after, Lucy is knocked unconscious and wakes up with some of the contents of the briefcase sewed inside of her stomach — it’s a newly developed, untested drug guaranteed to put junkies on cloud nine and keep them there for a very long time. A scuffle happens, the bag opens inside of her and half of the contents spread its way throughout her body, into her organs and, most importantly for this story, her brain. We are told early on that humans have never used more than 10 percent of their brains — this drug gives Lucy the ability to use up to the full 100 percent, which makes her an assassin, chameleon, computer (WTF!?) and lets her control people and things and learn about every crack and crevice of evolution and human life in minutes.
A bizarre new Luc Besson joint has begun.
The main disadvantage with Lucy is that it’s trying to be too smart for its own good. Besson created a new kind of science for human evolution for the film, and there are so many things going on with Lucy’s new abilities so fast, it’s difficult for the audience to keep up and/or even care. We are just supposed to already know of all the things she can now do as she gets smarter. Once she starts using a larger percentage of her brain, Lucy becomes more powerful, even God-like, and can do whatever the hell she wants for that scene. This is where the story really stunts itself. It leaves little opportunity for surprise — especially when she enters a room full of bad guys wanting to kill her. We know she can control others and can’t be hurt, so what’s the point of having this scene other than cool visuals?
It also doesn't help that a bulk of Johansson's acting makes the film laughably bad. It’s not that her acting is terrible, it’s that she’s required to move her body in ways that make her look goofy and uncomfortable. The smarter she becomes, the more she avoids eye contact in a way that makes her look blind and the more she jolts her body, like she’s going to break into The Robot at any moment.
We learn she no longer feels pain or emotion, but I guess the smarter one becomes, the more catatonic they appear. It’s looks really silly and the film isn't in on the laughs.
Morgan Freeman pops in to narrate and talk about the human brain and how crazy things will get if more than 10 percent is used. Other than that soothing voice of his, though, he’s not too useful for this film. And even though This is Johannson’s show, Choi aggressively takes it from her as the menacing antagonist. Good or bad, he’s quite frightening.
Besson should always be lauded for are his effort — you have to hand it to a filmmaker who’s always stepping outside of his comfort zone to try something new. It’s just that sometimes, exploring new territory can be too ambitious for his own good.
Lucy is too ambitious for its own good. Maybe, though, if you shut off that “10 percent” of the brain you do use, you might actually like it.