John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Lucy Poster


Genre: Action and Adventure, Thriller

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: July 25th, 2014

Scarlett Johansson knows how to kick butt. The young actress has previously shown her physical skills facing off against agile counterparts in movies like Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. That might be why director Luc Besson (Taken) chose her as his title actress in Lucy, page a movie which attempts to be more than the sum of its feeble parts and falters because of it.

“Life was given to us a billion years ago, page ” Johansson notes in a voiceover early in the feature before asking “what have we done with it?” The answer seems to be “not much” here as the director takes us on a superficial journey where the naïve Lucy— she has few characteristics beyond that as the story begins— is transformed into a woman whose brain capacity begins to grow exponentially over the course of this 89-minute thriller.

Lucy starts out dating a manipulative and argumentative thug named Richard (Pilou Asbæk). Little is known about his character or his relationship with the main character (they’ve only been dating a week) before he forces her to deliver a mysterious suitcase into an office building. When she does, try she’s taken hostage and her captors accidentally insert her with a drug that greatly improves her brain capacity.

As the story continues, Lucy’s growing brain power– which starts out around 10% of its capacity and grows from there– is noted on the screen in large numerals, signaling perhaps how subtle the director is trying to be. The percentage numbers jump onto the screen throughout the feature as Lucy is able to use more and more of her brain power. Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman plays a scientist named Professor Norman who rambles on about the power of the human brain and what it would look like if a human could access more and more partss of it (of course, Norman’s lecture is speaking directly to the physical changes that Lucy is exhibiting.)

Besson isn’t a very subtle director and like the percentages that are displayed onscreen noting Lucy’s intelligence, he’s often inclined to spell out the story’s message directly to the viewers. It’s not enough for the moviegoers to engage in their own thoughts of the debate—Besson has to push them to think like the characters do.

Johansson tries to replicate her butt-kicking capabilities here but this feature doesn’t have the stylistic aptitude of Besson’s previous effort Taken to work. In that Besson thriller, Liam Neeson starred as a man seeking vengeance against those who kidnapped his daughter. Neeson revitalized his career doing that movie and although the film had its flaws, it knew exactly what it was and pleased the audience by giving them what they expected with a lot of verve and style. Here, Besson makes this movie seem like it’s much deeper than it actually is.

Despite its high concept, Lucy is simply a superficially pleasing drama that continuously strains plausibility by pretending that enhancing a person’s brain capabilities (even only by a little) will make them powerful lords who can move matter, hack into electronic devices and change their hair color easily.

When the climax arrives, the audience will feel like they’ve been on a ride but one that merely pretends to be more than the sum of its parts. Lucy is a character without complexity and this is a movie lacking the depth it so endlessly pretends to have. At one point, Lucy sits on a chair about to be operated on and notes to her mother “Mom, I feel everything…I can feel the gravity.”

I only wish that she felt how flimsy and superficial this script is.

© 2014 by John Hanlon

Review by: John Hanlon