Review: Lucy

Universal Pictures Scarlett  Johansson in "Lucy."
Universal Pictures
Scarlett Johansson in “Lucy.”

Enduring “Lucy,” the latest disappointing effort from Luc Besson, is probably the closest you’ll come to a very bad sci-fi acid trip.

Whoever put the trailer together deserves a serious raise as they make “Lucy” look like one of those rare, fresh films you’ll want to be one of the first to experience it opening weekend. What we’re left with instead is a disjointed drag that isn’t nearly as smart or thought-provoking as Besson, who wrote and directed this mess, assumes.

 Jessica Forde/Universal Studios Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is temporarily held hostage by thugs
Jessica Forde/Universal Studios
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is temporarily held hostage by thugs

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson, “Captain America: The Winter Solider”), a regular unassuming young woman, is abducted by Mr. Jang’s (Min-sik Choi) gangsters and forced to smuggle a volatile drug overseas.

The drug leaks into her system however, allowing Lucy to gradually tap into the “unused” 90 percent of her brain, which gives her greater insight into the human condition. As her brain power increases, Lucy is able to accomplish more incredible feats such as tapping into TV/radio waves, rapidly heal, diagnose health issues and even change her appearance, but it comes at the cost of her emotions and feelings.

As far as superhero origins go, it’s not bad, but Besson (“The Family”) quickly taps out of a compelling narrative as Lucy becomes so much more advanced than anyone around her. And it feels a bit silly to waste Johansson, one of the more expressive actresses working today, and essentially turn her into a robot. Johansson is at her best in the film early on before Super-Lucy kicks in, most notably in a scene where Lucy is talking to her mother and reminiscing on her life experiences.

Jessica Forde/Universal Studios Morgan Freeman as Professor Samuel Norman
Jessica Forde/Universal Studios
Morgan Freeman as Professor Samuel Norman

Besson tries to get too cute by frequently interspersing random clips of animals in their natural habitat mixed with a clumsy evolutionist history lesson from Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman, “The LEGO Movie”). The evolutionist theme is heavy throughout, but Besson offers little new to the conversation, instead having the characters spout off a bunch of random bumper sticker phrases.

Since Lucy is virtually indestructible and her foes are low-tech gangsters, there’s little suspense. She can literally take out any thug with a dismissive wave of her hand leading to excessively long, empty action sequences filled with no consequences.

Universal Pictures Amr Waked as police Capt. Pierre Del Rio.
Universal Pictures
Amr Waked as police Capt. Pierre Del Rio.

To add some element of danger, Lucy takes on a “sidekick” in police officer Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), who rightfully questions just how he can help her. Besson does stage these action elements well, especially the car chase and climactic hallway shootout, but great action in a film where the action doesn’t matter really falls flat. The soundtrack is EDM/rave heavy and while it rarely works within the film, the songs are at least catchy.

There’s a market for action movies with a female lead. It’s why Angelina Jolie keeps getting roles like “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Salt” — and why Jolie was originally cast as Lucy before having to drop out. Audiences want to see a strong female protagonist and there are still terribly few options.

 Jessica Forde/Universal Studios The merciless Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik) assembles his thugs in "Lucy."
Jessica Forde/Universal Studios
The merciless Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik) assembles his thugs in “Lucy.”

Besson wants “Lucy” to be this deep action film, but it’s so poorly handled that it’s even worse than the typical brainless summer blockbusters. Sadly, “Lucy” doesn’t mark the dawn of the evolution of the new female-led action flick, just another bump in the road to real progress.

Rating: 2 out of 10

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