Lucy (2014)

Posted by Joel Copling on July 25, 2014

If it is feasible that a film could be intelligent and silly, frequently in the same breath, that film is writer/director Luc Besson's "Lucy," an insane cross between breakneck thriller involving bloody violence and Chinese gangs and existential tone poem about the boundaries of the human mind (My colleague in D.C. Dustin Putman called it 2006's "Crank" meets 2011's "The Tree of Life," and I couldn't agree more). It might be dumb-as-rocks as it plays out, but that lunacy is cut by an overall intelligence of how to screw with perception and pre-conceived expectations. Cheap comparisons are cheap and all, but the recent "Transcendence" and 2011's "Limitless" are recalled so vividly by this film that it must be noted "Lucy" topples the other, more insulting ones by an incredible margin.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson, strong in a performance that could easily have been played with many wrong notes) is no sooner double-crossed by a new boyfriend (Pilou Asbaek) and abducted by Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi, unsettling in all the right macabre ways) and his crew, than a package with mysterious blue and purple powder that has the consistency of methamphetamine is inserted into her lower abdomen, right alongside her intestines. She's not the only one, either; three others are given the same package. They are drug mules, and when Lucy attempts to fight back, she is savaged by a thug, and the package rips, releasing the drug into her system.

What is in the packages reveals itself startlingly quickly, answered for us by a literal lecture from a professor named Norman (Morgan Freeman) who spends most of movie reckoning what would happen if more than ten percent of the human brain--the current capacity we are able to use--was accessed. This drug enables the consumer to access up to 100 percent of the brain, and the rest of the film tracks Lucy as she comes to terms with this. It mostly makes her into an emotion-deprived shell of her former self, but it has its clever, mostly inane uses, such as control over other people's brains and certain electromagnetic waves (televisions, phones, light fixtures, etc.).

The existential element drops in rather memorably by the third act, when Lucy gets closer and closer to the maximum use of her brain power. There is something oddly gratifying about a film that embraces its own lunacy as something meaningful, but then, there's something inherently meaningful about exploration the far reaches of human possibility, even if Besson is distilling those ideas through a live-action cartoon that ends rather abruptly following some strong violence. The ideas might be ludicrous, yes, but "Lucy" works very hard to ensure that their boldness and brazenness is not forgotten. By the end, having telepathic powers is merely scratching the surface when one has the wide world of out-of-the-box possibilities from which to choose.

Film Information

Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Morgan Freeman (Professor Norman), Min-sik Choi (Mr. Jang), Amr Waked (Pierre Del Rio), Julian Rhind-Tutt (The Limey), Pilou Asbaek (Richard), Analeigh Tipton (Caroline).

Directed and written by Luc Besson.

Rated R (violence, disturbing images, sexuality).

90 minutes.

Released on July 25, 2014.