Cinema’s fascination with what might come from an evolution in human intelligence is as old as film itself. Thus, finding fresh, original ideas for these kinds of films is often a lost cause. However, if you like your Limitless with a side of Tree of Life, then Lucy may be the ticket for you this weekend.
The latest film from French director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Family), Lucy stars Scarlett Johansson in the title role as a student living in Taiwan whose boyfriend tricks her into completing a drug deal that has some unexpected consequences. When the drug deal goes sour, Lucy finds herself face to face with drug kingpin, Mr. Jang (Oldboy‘s Min-sik Choi) who threatens to kill her unless she acts as his drug mule. Lucy is forced to transport Jang’s newly synthesized drug by having it sewn into her lower intestine, but when an altercation results in the drug leaking into her bloodstream, Lucy discovers that the drug has an unintended side effect of increasing her cerebral capacity. Now, armed with brain functionality that dwarfs that of the average person, Lucy goes on the warpath to seek revenge against Jang and his outfit. In order to keep the film from becoming a routine revenge film and to instill a bit of legitimacy to Lucy’s agenda, Besson introduces Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a brain researcher who advises Lucy to act as any thriving organism does and attempt to pass down what she learns for future generations.
As I stated earlier, this is not the most original idea ever put to film, but Besson does put his artistic spin on it and successfully creates what is easily one of the best films he has ever directed (which to many is not saying much!). As we are reminded over and over, the average person uses 10% of his or her brain, but Lucy discovers that once 20% is reached, the rest falls into place like dominoes. Soon Lucy discovers that her body requires doses of the drug to survive, resulting in further increases of brain functionality, but she finds that she cannot sustain 100% cerebral capacity making her a paradoxical ticking time brain. Lucy’s journey to unlock the secrets of the universe and kill a drug lord does feel a bit unbalanced at times. Furthermore, at a svelte 90 minutes, the film also seems a bit hurried and cheesy at times. It is also a surprisingly violent film with plenty of on and off screen casualties that do not seem necessary or prudent to the story. The film is strongest in its set-up where Besson cleverly splices metaphorical imagery into his narrative to an almost subliminal effect. What is proven is Johansson’s charm and strength in the genre (Lucy almost feels like an audition for the upcoming Black Widow, Avengers spin-off that will star her and is now in production). Regardless of its faults, this is an artsy and visionary little slice of sci-fi that is worth checking out. B
Lucy is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.