Luc Besson's metaphysical action flick is loopy, ludicrous, and undeniably fun.
By Max Weiss. Posted on July 24, 2014, 12:57 pm
Luc Besson’s Lucy is completely bonkers—and I mean that in a good way. It’s a fever-dream-like mixture of the director’s trademark “sexy girl with a gun” flicks and some sort of undergraduate’s marijuana-fueled philosophy debate. The pseudo-science that it’s based on—that we only use 10 percent of our brains so just imagine the possibilities if we had access to the whole thing!—has been repeatedly debunked. But because it is Besson, the bad science is delivered in a manner that is fast-paced, dizzying, hilarious (at times, even intentionally so), and compulsively watchable.
Scarlett Johansson plays the titular character, a student traveling in Taipei, who gets coerced by her shady boyfriend to deliver a mysterious package to a bunch of Taiwanese gangsters. They capture her, then use her as a drug mule, surgically inserting a large packet of drugs into her abdomen. It’s only when she gets beaten by another gangster that the pouch opens and all the drugs are released in her system. Turns out, they’re some sort of embryonic thingamajig that regenerates whosits and allows you to slowly access all of your brain. Science!
These opening scenes, filled with wonderful chaos and confusion, are classic Luc Besson, the kind of thing he can do in his sleep (that doesn’t make them any less riveting). But we know something is up, because Besson keeps flashing to images of cavewomen and wild animals in peril. (It’s impossible, here, not to be reminded of Terrence Malick’s meditative Tree of Life—one wonders if Luc Besson saw that film and thought it would be so much better if only if featured a hot chick carrying a gun.)
Once Lucy slowly starts getting an all-access pass to her own brain—the capacity amusingly flashed across the screen as percentages—things start getting nutty. She remembers everything. She feels her own blood coursing through her veins. She is super strong. Can speak all languages and read 65,000 words in matter of seconds. And that’s just the beginning.
She consults with Morgan Freeman, phoning it in so hard I was amazed he managed to stay awake, as a scientist whose specialty is predicting the brain’s potential. “What’s going to happen to me next?” she asks him. Well, next is controlling others, controlling inanimate objects and eventually, yes, getting in touch with all of the universe—dating back to the dawn of man.
At which point, presumably, she will no longer need the gun.
Among its other attributes, Lucy is mercifully short. The whole history of mankind, plus the potential for human intelligence, and Scarlett Johansson kicking butt, all captured in a brisk 90 minutes. Your move, Terrence Malick!
Max Weiss is the managing editor of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.