Rated: R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 25, 2014 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
New, arguably assured Euro-trash from Luc Besson (The Family) filmed in Paris and Taipei has something in common with films like Limitless, Maria Full of Grace and the recent Johnny Depp bomb Transcendence.
In Lucy, a primarily deadpan, monotonic Scarlett Johansson (Under The Skin, Her) is eponymous, put-upon telekinetic protagonist who raises her brain capacity from 10 to 100% during the course of a film where extraordinary talents are balanced by gangster elements that has the actress who has played 'Black
Widow' in the recent Captain America: Winter Soldier effortlessly embodying what increased cerebral power can do for the human race.
But, Besson doesn't usually turn out the sharpest screenplays that hardly is in league with Christopher Nolan so Lucy, an American studying abroad but partying too much becomes immersed into a powerful drug syndicate with Taiwanese strongmen led by Kang (Choi Min-sik of the original Korean version of Oldboy). After impelled as a drug mule with blue bags of powdery crystals in her stomach (not so unlike what was part of the Breaking Bad original series on AMC where 'story matters here') a couple of hard punches to the gut causes not only spillage but elevating her brain capacity from the normal human maximum of 10% to a potential of 100%.
So, now, well even from the start where the film takes on a look as a nature film in spurts as some might have a double take on the concurrent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the filmmaking gets to explore its visual f/x nature through imaginative, fantastical, psychedelic imagery maybe not unlike a Peter
Jackson film starring Saiorse Ronan and Mark Wahlberg, The Lovely Bones though not as painterly. But, the writer/director does fashion his relish for violence to reinforce his latest empowered distaff heroine as seen in films like Le Femme Nikita and Messenger; in this case the world, past and present is her iPad to access and use at her discretion. Lucy's cerebral cortex does make her act in cold, calculating ways save a phone call to her mom trying to explain her transformation and things her mother wouldn't even thing she would know or even care about like how her kisses felt or nourishment as an infant.
An update of distaff dynamism is perhaps what Besson is aiming at in trying to make sense of "knowing what to do what we've had for a billion years". You don't get much sense of where Kang's influence spreads or the goals of his brutal organization (with plenty high-tech weaponry like AK-47 at their disposal) besides mowing down anyone to get the stuff that Lucy (who's called a witch by one of his minions locked in a crooked state by her). Probably because he's unaware of what this new synthetic drug CP5H (which has to do with what's produced during human pregnancy) can do.
Of course, a multi-lingual (but just English speaking) Lucy almost seems like a hit-woman at times to do (like on an operating table where surgeons really don't have a chance with a terminal cancer patient) what she needs to do to get to lecturing Professor Norman (a reactive and mostly awed and befuddled Morgan Freeman, also of Transcendence and God in Bruce Almighty). So, Lucy becomes smarter in different ways than the Bradley Cooper character did in the aforementioned Limitless while having the feel of the Jason Statham vehicle Crank with the mobster element as this superhero of a woman seems to have the aura and facility of a Neo where shells randomly drop from an undischarged firearm.
Lucy tries to make its points with glances and touches but Johansson doesn't really make much of her talents when considering her recent, referenced turns that may have brought more ambiguity into the equation; even becoming Janet Leigh in "Hitchcock" showed a little more of her thespian capacity than here. The premise of the possibilities of the human mind really doesn't crystallize more than dissolve as Besson has some Transporter moments for his fans (going against a one-way highway as cars pile up) as Amr Waked as the no-nonsense French cop taken under Lucy's wing to nullify the drug ring and corner a defiantly implacable but wispy Kang.
Some amusement may come with a fax for a roommate that can be a prescription for living a more normal life, but all of the conjuring up of dinosaurs who vanish as their appetite is whetted and Native Americans and primates might have that Kubrickian quality about it. Still, where life has come from all the chasing imaginative visuals processed by a woman who handles laptops and any electronics at her whim is tidy and thoughtful in its execution but not really that convincing.