If you had the ability to access more than 10 percent of your brain, what would you do? Such is the basic premise behind Luc Besson’s Lucy. Treading terrain eerily familiar to the Bradley Cooper starrer Limitless, Besson substitutes a male lead with a female and plunks her into the seedy underbelly of Taiwan. With the Parisian writer/director at the helm, it is very easy to assume that the proceedings would be visually captivating and action-packed, as per his previous films. Perhaps if Mr. Besson had used more than 1% of his brain to compose Lucy, the film could have lived up to its potential.
At the outset of the film, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is the stereotypical ditzy American student overseas. Sporting sky-high heels and a barely-there dress, she groggily escorts her mysterious date (with whom she has just spent the entire night pounding back shots at a club) to a downtown office building where he is to deliver a briefcase. In a terse, tense sequence, she is rapidly conned into delivering the briefcase herself, as her date is shot in front of her. She soon learns that the contents of the aforementioned briefcase are large packets of a blue synthetic drug (not to be confused with that featured on Breaking Bad). Her captor, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi, better known as the original Oldboy) orders his henchmen to implant a packet into the abdomen of each of his captives, including Lucy. He then sends each one to European locations where the drugs can then be sold. In a cruel twist of fate, Lucy is physically abused, which leads a portion of the package into her stomach, which seeps into her bloodstream. In a scene that perfectly blends Fred Astaire’s ceiling dance in Royal Wedding and Kevin Bacon’s angry dance in Footloose, she writhes and wriggles violently, first across the floor and then up on the ceiling, as the drug swiftly takes her over. The drug gives her the ability to use growing increments of her brain, with the end result being that she is able to use the entire 100 percent of it. Rather the using her newfound power to help others, she teams up with French police officer Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) to try and track down the other drug mules and avenge them.
Despite gaping plot holes and laughable twists, Lucy is an entertaining mess. One never knows from scene-to-scene what may happen to the lead character, and it’s almost disappointing to discover that Besson is trying to convey the message of Tree of Life (or even the recent Boyhood’ at the core of it all. Just as disappointing is the discovery that nowhere in the film does the sultry Scarlett Johansson flex her action skills. Luc Besson is likely best known for his empowering portrayals of fearless and powerful heroines (see ‘The Professional’, ‘La Femme Nikita’ or even ‘The Fifth Element’ as evidence), yet there’s little of that on display here.
If you must see Lucy, check almost every percentage of your brain at the door.