In one year’s time, Scarlett Johansson has been a disembodied voice in “Her,” an alien with little voice in “Under the Skin,” and now, in “Lucy,” an infected human with an almost robotic voice.
Written and directed by Luc Besson, “Lucy” poses the question of what would happen if humans were able to access 100 percent of their brain’s capacity. As we learn from a lecture given by the film’s Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) on this topic, dolphins access more of their brain’s capacity than do humans. As he is giving his lecture, we meet, at the same time, Lucy, a young grad student in Taipei. In Taipei she’s been partying hard and taken up with a so not worthy guy, Richard (Pilou Asbæk). Perhaps starting to see the error of her ways in the light of day, she attempts to break things off outside a luxury hotel. Richard brushes off her comments and asks her to make a “delivery” of a briefcase to a man inside the hotel for him. When she turns him down, he handcuffs her to the case and tells her that only the recipient of the briefcase has the key to the handcuffs. Forced to make the delivery, she discovers that the man, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), is part of some sadistic drug ring. The drug in question, she later finds out, is a synthetic drug called CPH4 which can increase the user’s brain function capacity. Without giving too much away, this drug eventually leads her to Paris and Professor Norman.
“Lucy” has a lot going on—some of it very excellent, some not so much. What is very good is the first 40 minutes or so. That part of “Lucy” is tense, gory, gross and exhilarating. Johansson is absolutely terrific in those scenes. But too much of “Lucy” has a plethora of animal symbolism, allegories of all kind and a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo…mumbo jumbo of which Morgan Freeman is almost able to make comprehensible…almost.
Morgan Freeman is a hugely talented actor. But as “Lucy’s” voice of reason, his role is very similar to the one he just portrayed in “Transcendence.” One hopes that someday soon he gets a part into which he can truly sink his teeth. Unfortunately, Professor Norman is not that role. Scarlett Johansson gives a master class in showcasing fear and horror in “Lucy’s” early scenes. It’s actually a physical tour de’ force. But as the film progresses, through no fault of her own, she becomes more robotic, and that’s just not entertaining
Attention must be paid to and discussed about “Lucy’s” antagonists. Lately there seems to be an overabundance in films and in television shows of Asians portrayed as unfeeling, heartless, soulless killers. I don’t want to be too politically correct here, but these portrayals seem like a disturbing trend. There’s good and bad in all races and nationalities. Wouldn’t it be more challenging for a writer to mix the villains up a bit?
It would appear that Luc Besson was aiming for something larger than what was ultimately delivered, which is too bad. He had the acting talent to make that happen.