Review: Lucy (2014)
By Floyd Rock
There is a sequence in Luc Besson’s science fiction action picture, Lucy, in which through a rapid reverse time lapse shows New York City’s Time Square shift from the modern spectacle seen today to earlier periods of the famed location. In this sequence the movie both shows the grandeur and miniscule nature of mankind, the now dominant species on their small bit of rock in the universe. This is perhaps the perfect representation of the movie as a whole. While it attempts to incorporate some ambitious yet absurd ideas, it still remains trapped under the burden of its own rudimentary shortcomings.
Johansson stars as Lucy, a young American woman studying in Taiwan. Through complications with her boyfriend she is forced into trafficking a synthetic drug transplanted into her abdomen by a dangerous mob boss. Physical abuse while captive leads to the package implanted inside her breaking, releasing the drug into the rest of her body. As a result she starts exhibiting extraordinary mental powers, powers which advance and expand as time progresses as more of the drug enters her system. To better understand the severe and rapid changes to her mind and body Lucy researches the work of Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), a scientist with exploratory concepts on the potential and limits of the human brain. In the process she forms a partnership with a Paris police captain (Amr Waked) as conflicts with the drug lord escalate.
While Lucy may hinder its own poignancy, stuck in the framing of an excessive action movie, it at least is able to keep things relatively exciting. This largely rests on the shoulders of its lead, Scarlett Johansson, whom with confidence and bravado carries the movie, making much of its silliest, strangest, and even schlockiest moments work. Upon leaving the theater I overheard a pretty accurate assessment from a fellow theater goer. When asked what she thought of the movie she said “I don’t know, it wasn’t bad, just… weird.”
By design Lucy is a movie at odds with itself, ambitious aspirations squeezed through the needle eye of summer movie trappings. With its own desire for intellectual enlightenment it’s a movie that both features musings on the cerebral potential of mankind and a sequence in which a mob goon slides down a hallway in slow-motion while firing a rocket launcher. In short, it’s a mixed bag. Though uneven however, it is not wholly easy to dismiss. For example, in its opening the movie features some refreshing editing techniques in which Lucy’s predicament is foreshadowed by shots of a lion stalking its prey intercut as she is waiting nervously to deliver a briefcase. Handcuffed to the case against her will tension builds even though the movie is explicitly informing its audience through the clash of these two sequences, or perhaps because it’s already giving away the dreadful outcome. It’s moments like this that show Besson willing to take chances with stranger choices than the average summer action picture, which at least allows Lucy to occasionally stand out among the crowd.