Past the Popcorn: Luc Besson’s Mindbender Lucy

by Jeff Walls

In 2011, Bradley Cooper starred in a movie called Limitless, which had a premise that revolved around a drug that would allow the user to access 100 percent of their brain capacity.  Three years later, director Luc Besson introduces us to Lucy, a movie that also uses a similar drug as its main plot device.  That is where the comparisons between the two movies end, however, as the trippy Lucy turns out to be a cross between a Jason Statham action movie and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

While also a reference to “the first human,” the title character is an American student studying abroad in Taiwan.  When her boyfriend of one week handcuffs a suitcase to her wrist and sends her into a local hotel, she finds herself suddenly caught up in the middle of a drug ring.  The organization plans on selling a drug called CPH4, but first must get it through customs.  When Lucy wakes up in a hotel room with a scar on her stomach, she realizes that she is being used as a mule to bring the drug back to the States.   Unfortunately for her captors, her mistreatment leads to the bag inside her being broken and high quantities of the drug being mixed with her blood stream.

lucy-insetThe drug immediately begins to rapidly increase Lucy’s brain function which, in the science of this film, practically grants her superpowers.  She barges into a hospital emergency room and demands they remove the excess drugs insider her, then seeks out a lecturing scientist who is the foremost theorist on what might happen if human beings were able to use more of their brainpower than they currently do.  Meanwhile, Lucy must continue to evade the drug kingpin who wants his merchandise back, while recruiting the police to help her stop the rest of the drug mules before this powerful narcotic is allowed to spread across the globe.

Lucy is simultaneously very entertaining and extremely baffling.  There is hardly a boring moment as the movie just continues to accelerate towards an ending that is impossible to predict.  At the end, audiences may be scratching their head about the direction the film chose to go.  For star Scarlett Johansson, the movie almost works as an imaginative prequel to her work in last year’s Her.

Johansson is definitely the highlight of the movie.  Her character’s found abilities allow her to show off her butt-kicking skills, while she gets an opportunity to exhibit some genuinely emotional acting in one key early scene.  While having the rest of the drugs removed from her abdomen, she calls her mother and expresses her love and appreciation for the life she was given by explaining how she suddenly remembers every touch, kiss, and moment of warmth of her entire life, all the way back to her time in the womb.  It is a moving farewell delivered just before her character’s rational side overtakes her emotional side.

Of course, the movie being directed by Luc Besson, it should come as no surprise that there is plenty of action.  The highlight of the action is a frantic car chase sequence in the latter half of the movie.  Racing to get to Morgan Freeman’s scientist to share her ever-increasing knowledge before it is too late, Lucy speeds through the streets of Paris using her extra brainpower to anticipate the moves of the other vehicles on the street.

Lucy moves crisply through its short 90-minute runtime at a frantic pace.  The science of the movie may be flimsy and many of the laughs the movie receives are not intended, but as an entertainment, Lucy succeeds.


Lucy opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16 and the AMC Kent Station 14.

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