Written & Directed by Luc Besson.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked and Choi Min Sik.
R, 89 minutes.
When Lucy begins, we hear Scarlett Johansson’s voice chiming in with something along the lines of, “Human beings have been on this planet for (x amount of years), and what have we done with it?” If this movie were all we had to go on as a reference point to such a query, then the answer would unfortunately be not a whole lot.
What begins as a refreshingly frank depiction of human beings as little more than animals relying solely on their baser instincts devolves when it strives for something more and shows it really has nothing provocative or poignant to say on that matter or any other. And, believe me, the scientific inaccuracies are the least of its problems.
The film’s best moments are when it has the least amount of actual “plot” elements going on. Our titular character begins as an implicitly hard-partying, American girl in Taiwan who runs with the wrong crowd, here represented by a sleazy friend who forces her to deliver a mysterious briefcase to some shady characters. She’s captured as an unwilling drug mule of a strange new synthetic drug called CPH4. A prolonged exposition dump is given to explain just what exactly this drug is and what it can do, but it basically regenerates your cellular activity, to paraphrase heavily.
Her capture is cleverly edited together with a lion stalking its oblivious and eventually helpless prey. It’s obvious who is supposed to be what in this scenario and the tension from using this tactic buys the film a lot of suspense through its first fifteen minutes.
Once the actual story gets going, however, all that tension evaporates. Lucy keeps things chugging along briskly with plot points that only make you think, “Well, so what?” This is because they’re being thrown at you in rapid-like consistency without any real sense of dramatic weight behind them throughout the film’s scant running time.
Scarlett Johansson is clearly playing to her strengths here, but, after her performance in Her just last year proved she could do more with her voice than be monotonously serious, its disappointing to see she’s regressed to essentially the same performance as before in all three of the movies she has been in since (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Under the Skin, and now this). Wish she would team up with Woody Allen again.
The film, it should be said, is about progress and the necessity of passing down knowledge gained because of our inherent mortality, but that simple notion alone doesn’t justify an entire feature-film without some sense of direction beyond the perfunctory points Lucy has to follow. As is, it feels like a shaggy dog story.
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