“For action junkies there is just enough to get your fix, but those who need a hit that goes beyond fast cars and roundhouse kicks will go away empty handed.”
by Matt Allen
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked
Director(s): Luc Besson
Screenwriter(s): Luc Besson
Running Time: 89 minutes
Presumably, when Jean-Luc Goddard said “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun,” his namesake Luc Besson took him literally. Throughout his oeuvre, Besson has leaned heavily on strong female protagonists with serious arse-kicking capabilities. From Nikita, to Matilda on to Leeloo and now, joining the gallery of gung-ho gals, we have Lucy.
After being forced into drug-mulery by Taiwanese gangsters, the eponymous Lucy (Johansson) is subjected to a massive dose of an experimental drug, setting off a chain reaction that promises to unlock the full potential of the human brain.
The myth that the typical homo-sapien only uses 10 percent of his/her brain is one that has been passed around like a bad penny for decades. Supposedly, according to pseudo-science propagators, there is untold potential hidden away inside the darker corners of the brain-box that – if we could only tap into it – would unlock latent, superhuman abilities the likes of which we have only read about in Stephen King novels.
But of course that is all bullshit. The truth is that there is virtually no portion of the human brain that goes unused (proved by neuroimaging techniques that confirm that while it is not all active at once, the different areas of the brain fire at different times for different reasons) but the “theory” does provide a convenient catch-all explanation for lazy screenwriters the world over when they need to justify a character’s superhuman ability.
With Lucy, the key to unlocking this hitherto squandered potential comes in the form of CPH-4, the latest designer drug. Not to be confused with the signature crystal blue Meth peddled by the Breaking Bad boys, CPH-4 is a synthesised form of a hormone produced by mothers during pregnancy that jump starts the growth and development of the foetus – essentially providing a huge burst of raw energy to help baby form bones and such.
Somehow an overdose of this administered to a fully grown adult – instead of killing them immediately – suffuses itself to their cells and kick starts an evolutionary process that promises to take the human form through to its ultimate conclusion, whatever that may be. Of course, the process is highly traumatic for the individual and threatens to turn them to dust if more of the drug is not consumed at regular intervals. How else would you introduce jeopardy to a character with god-like powers?
Possibly the most disappointing thing about Lucy is the gifts that are bestowed upon her by the wonder-drug. There is little to no effort gone into inventing the various abilities themselves or even clever new ways in which the obligatory telekinesis/telepathy is employed. Instead, the film is punctuated by the increasing percentage of ‘capacity’ that is unlocked by Lucy with each stage proving to be a predictable disappointment.
Interestingly, the only vaguely plausible development in Lucy’s roster of super powers is the ability to wield complete control over her metabolism and thus allowing her to change her appearance at will. But what does she do with this mastery of transmogrification? She slaps on a cheap black wig and hopes no one recognises her.
All the while, Freeman’s neuroscientist does his level best to deliver the film’s preposterous premise with as much credibility as humanly possible. ScarJo plays Lucy as one might expect from a woman transcending the limits of meagre humanity and drops her voice to a monotonous, robotic constant. Job done. There is a throwaway mention to a possible love interest in Waked’s Parisian copper that is discarded just as pointlessly as it was introduced – presumably the aim was to give the final scene an emotional punch which despite this effort still fails to land.
For action junkies there is just enough to get your fix, but those who need a hit that goes beyond fast cars and roundhouse kicks will go away empty handed. After launching straight into the action without pause for set-up, Lucy becomes a string of average action set pieces that look logic straight in the eye and then blink.
Besson attempts to disguise a feeble concept by dazzling us with his signature hyper-stylised high-octane action; a simple case of style over substance abuse. Still, ScarJo appears in virtually every frame so we’ll add a whole star to the score just for that.