Lucy (R) ★★★½

Scarlett Johansson stars in "Lucy." Photo credit: Universal Pictures
Scarlett Johansson stars in “Lucy.” Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Scar Jo Goes Out of Her Damsel Comfort Zone

Scarlett Johansson is one of Hollywood’s most well-known blonde vixens who most often plays the role of the seductress like in Her (2013), Don Jon (2013), Hitchcock (2012) and Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008), to name a few.

When I first saw the trailer for the action, sci-fi movie, Lucy, initially, I could not take it seriously; Scar Jo getting beat up, assassinating countless people and playing a superhuman? It just didn’t seem right. Although she’s starred in Marvel Comic films, Johansson played more of a seductress than anything.

I must confess, my initial instincts were wrong. Johansson steps it up as the hyper intelligent Lucy. After La Femme Nikita (1991) with Anne Parillaud and The Fifth Element (1997) with Milla Jovovich, acclaimed French writer/director Luc Besson is back with another female action hero in Lucy.

Lucy is an American student studying in Taipei, Taiwan who accidentally gets herself caught in a drug trafficking deal through her ex-boyfriend of one week (Pilou Askaek, Sex Drugs & Taxation, 2013). Within minutes, she’s captured and held captive by the dark side with Mr. Jeng (Min-sik Choi, New World, 2013) and his entourage. After being tortured and drugged, Lucy is forced to transport lethal substances, and not in a carrying case. She wakes up the next morning disoriented with severe abdominal pain and realizes she’s been cut open. A chemical pouch was inserted into her body for ‘safe’ transport. After a violent encounter with her cell guard, the pouch is punctured and the chemicals begin seeping into her bloodstream. Lucy suffers an extremely intense seizure-like reaction and immediately resorts to a flight-or-fight mentality.

The new, secret drug, named CPH4, enables Lucy to use more than the average 10 percent of cerebral capacity…and that she does. As the percentage of her cerebral capacity increases exponentially, Lucy is capable of knowing every last memory down to when she was born and tasted her mother’s milk. Lucy can feel gravity, air and vibrations, “I feel everything…except for feelings, fears and desires…” She eventually can stop and even rewind time and has telekinetic abilities as she tosses people around with her mind. She uses theses superhuman capabilities to her advantage to try and kill Mr. Jeng and his mob who are chasing after her to retain the drugs. She also educates researchers like a college professor (Morgan Freeman, Transcendence, 2014) about her condition before the drug kills her.

The film begins with a somewhat cheesy opening in which Johansson narrates while the evolution of the human is progressively depicted – from a gorilla slurping water out of a steady stream to the congested and polluted streets of Taiwan. For the first 10 minutes, scenes jump back and forth between Lucy and her ex Richard talking outside of an office building to animals in the wild. The scenes are supposed to juxtapose each other and foreshadow what’s ahead. Just before Richard tries to scam Lucy into completing his drug drop off for him, the screen jumps to a tiger murdering an antelope and walking away with its latest catch dangling from it’s mouth. A few audience members were laughing, but definitely not the majority. This animal-to-human metaphor is rarely used throughout the remainder of the film. The theme of evolution is understood, but I’m not sure if the comedic comparisons were the route to take, or, if the humor was even intentional in the first place.

Despite the pockets of misplaced comedy and cliché narration, Johansson proves herself in her unlikely ‘girl power’ role as Lucy. Freeman’s character as the intelligent, composed professor is spot on. Choi as the drug lord and Amr Waked (Odysseus, 2013) as the police chief round out the main cast, although their roles are more limited.

The film has a very appropriate run time of an hour and a half. It also utilizes a small cast of main characters which fits the film’s length and scope. Audiences should expect disturbing images and intense violence.

Bottom-Line? Lucy uses the unique and interesting concept about the potential of enhanced cerebral power and takes it to the next level. The film provides enough twists and turns and forces you to use your own brain…even after the credits are rolling.

Cast: Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Morgan Freeman (Professor Norman), Min-sik Choi (Mr. Jang), Amr Waked (Pierre Del Rio), Pilou Askaek (Richard)

Credits: Directed and written by Luc Besson

Studio: Universal Pictures

Run Time: 89 minutes

Jessica Aymond © July 22, 2014