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Lucy - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: C
Acting: B-
Writing: D-
Cinematography: C+
Editing: C-
Special Effects: C+

Lucy has one thing going for it. Scarlett Johansson can do other movies for less money that are actually interesting (Under the Skin, Her), and still be rich.

The ineptitude and outright idiocy of Lucy, however, cannot be underestimated. This would be Johansson's first blockbuster in which she gets top billing, and good for her. But given that the premise revolves around the widely debunked myth that humans only use 10% "of their brain's capacity," one might be tempted to question the woman's intelligence in accepting the part. Oh, right -- money and fame! She might very well be making a genius move here, capitalizing on the dim-wittedness of your average summer blockbuster audience member. After all, this movie is amazingly not widely panned by critics; plenty of them are liking it just fine. As is typical with movies like this, audiences like it even more.

Not me though. This movie is jaw-droppingly stupid. Where did you go wrong, writer/director Luc Besson? Earlier films by this man (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element) were delightful entertainments that made no attempt to pretend to be anything but what they were. Those movies had a purity in their action, science fiction or comic sensibilities, and a clear knowledge of their own limitations. Lucy, on the other hand, stretches itself so thin in its reach for profundity that the whole thing falls apart very early on.

A story about rapid acquisition of knowledge should demonstrate some actual knowledge. I'm no scientist; in fact I fancy myself as having only slightly above average intelligence -- which this film insults relentlessly -- and still it takes only a few minutes to see this movie as a massive pile of bullshit. The so-called "drug" called CPH4 that gets stashed against her will inside Lucy's abdomen, which we're told is a synthetic version of a chemical that occurs naturally during pregnancy to aid in the formation of fetal bones, is one thing. It's a dumb action movie, and okay, I can stay on board that far -- it's a simple yet believable-enough concept for science fiction. But there's a fine line between standard suspension of disbelief and outright preposterousness, and Lucy does more than cross the line -- it steamrolls over it, right into cinematic oblivion.

When Lucy is kicked in the belly by one of the many nameless thugs in this movie, the drug packet springs a leak, spilling "massive doses" of CPH4 into her blood stream. And so begins, somehow, the unlocking of the rest of Lucy's brain. Besson is so enamored with this "10%" concept that we even get title cards showing how much of Lucy's brain capacity she's reached throughout the film: 20% . . . 50% . . . and so on. Lucy "evolves" before our eyes, gaining psychic and telekinetic, even shape-shifting abilities.

Lucy's transformation itself is unrealistic enough, but let's just play devil's advocate and pretend something like what happens to her could actually happen. Even beyond that, no one around her reacts realistically. This is a woman who can literally lift people in the air with her mind, emptying their guns of their bullets at the same time, and still Besson makes this an action movie glutted with gun fights. These are the only villains she ever deals with: amoral trigger-happy Taiwanese gangsters. No one ever tries to fight back against Lucy with even a modicum of their own cerebral capacity. A woman becomes the smartest person on the planet, with supernatural powers? Quick, shoot her!

The very name "Lucy," by the way, is itself a reference to the earliest-known hominid known by the same name -- the "first woman," as our Lucy calls her -- and that is who we see in the opening shot of the film. Scarlett-Lucy says something blandly "profound" in voice-over and we jump to the present day, as if Besson were trying to offer a poor-man's 2001. (The monkeys at the beginning of 2001 were more convincing, by the way.) He plays with themes of evolution in increasingly inept ways, for instance intercutting the scene of Lucy's capture by the gangsters with images of cheetahs hunting a gazelle. It's all anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of basic biology can do not to groan until they blow out their throat.

And then there's Morgan Freeman as Professor Norman, perhaps the dumbest professor ever granted tenure. The scene in which we are introduced to this man is perhaps the worst scene in the movie, and that's saying something. This is where he's talking to an auditorium full of intellectuals of all ages, wearing glasses and typing on laptops while nodding appreciatively to everything he says about the possibilities of using more than "10% of our brain's capacity," and asking him painfully obvious and leading questions transparently meant to hand-feed this movie's faux intellectualism to its audience. Morgan Freeman is a wonderful actor and this movie makes you feel embarrassed for him. Granted, he's done a lot of that lately.

Is there anything good about this movie, any saving grace at all? Well, almost: it can be said with confidence that it would be far worse if not for Scarlett Johansson herself. This is a beautiful, charismatic woman with real talent, which is unfortunately squandered here, but she clearly can carry a movie. One could even argue that there's something ironically progressive about it, as a movie like this made twenty or perhaps even ten years ago would never have had a woman as the main character. (Bradley Cooper did something almost identical with 2011's Limitless, which didn't get half the buzz this movie seems to have.)

It's always fun to see a woman kick ass. Unfortunately, instead of, say, learning martial arts with the same swiftness she apparently learns foreign languages, Besson just puts guns in her hands. He has her walk through the gansters' lair and shoot it up while still wearing her hospital gown (over her clothes??) because evidently he thinks it'll look cool. A lot of Lucy is clearly meant to look cool, but instead it just looks like a million other action movies, the likes of which Besson wants us to believe he's differentiating from. The sad truth is this movie is far worse than most of them.

Scarlett Johansson barely earns a paycheck in LUCY.

Overall: C-
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