Luc Besson’s “Lucy” presents us with a simple “what if” scenario: What if human beings had the ability to access more than 10% of their brain power? Setting aside the fact that this myth has been proven false time and time again, what could be the possibilities if such a thing happened? Now consider another “what if” scenario… a far more challenging one at that. What if writer-director Besson was able to access more than 1% of his brain when conceptualizing this movie? Would that have made “Lucy” a more compelling movie or was the concept already bone-headed to begin with?
According to the Internet Movie Database, a minimum of 455 people worked on “Lucy” at any given point during the film’s six-to-nine month filmmaking process. Four hundred and fifty five! Of course, this figure doesn’t take into account all the extras hired during the production or everyone included in the pre and post-production process such as script readers, assistants, agents, publicists, advertising professionals, film lab technicians, accountants, caterers, etc… Add all those people in and you’ll get a number closer to 750. Seven hundred and fifty people expended precious hours of their lives for hours on end for more than half a year, and this is the result? That’s what I’d dub as a titanic waste of resources. They may have been compensated for their time but chances are that you won’t. So from one human being who uses far more than 10% of his brain to another: Don’t waste your time!
From a plot perspective, “Lucy” is about a ditzy American foreign exchange student/party girl (Scarlett Johansson) living in Taiwan who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd after a night of hard partying. Soon, she finds herself turned into a drug mule for a drug lord (Choi Min-sik) peddling a highly potent experimental drug to Europe. Things go bad and the drug finds its way into Lucy’s central nervous system, thus taking her minimal capacity brain from 10% to 100%. Mind you, this cranium jump doesn’t take place instantly like how it does in “Limitless,” the infinitely more entertaining Bradley Cooper thriller. Instead, it happens gradually over the course of the movie. We know this because we’re subjected to obnoxious title cards every fifteen minutes (15%! 25%!! 55%!!). We also know this because of Morgan Freeman’s Basil Exposition-esque play-by-play narration of everything that is taking place on screen. Between Transcendence and this, Freeman has now starred in two of 2014’s worst movies. I have to assume that Freeman selecting two films where people turn into super-humans was purely coincidental.
Besson, who also wrote this spring’s atrocious action-comedy 3 Days to Kill i.e. the one where Kevin Costner tries to pull the Liam Neeson card, remains ever the stylish filmmaker – flashing his slick, hyper-kinetic and colorful visuals all over the film – even if his metaphors are insultingly literal. For example, a scene of Lucy being kidnapped is intercut with stock footage of a cheetah attacking a zebra. For all his manic flourishes, Besson seems to have lost the soul that he brought to “La Femme Nikita” and “Leon: The Professional,” his earliest and best films. Even the outlandish “The Fifth Element” was fun. “Lucy” is the anti-thesis of fun. It’s a slog that wastes the talents of Johansson, who after stellar performances in “Her,” “Under the Skin” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” has proven that she can definitely impress with the right role. Though her commitment to this senseless character is reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s dedication to similar sub-par action vehicles, it’s clear that the actress deserves a significantly better starring vehicle than this trite. The best thing I can say is that it runs a mercifully short 89 minutes.
Director: Luc Besson
Writers: Luc Besson
Principal Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked
Editing: Luc Besson
Cinematography: Thierry Arbogast
Music: Eric Serra
Running time: 89 minutes
Companies: Warner Brothers
Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality