When someone claims to be “expanding their mind” when they indulge in heavy substances, it’s usually just a throwback to the spirit of the Summer of Love and a rationalization of a deeper issue. The heroine of “Lucy,” on the other hand, can claim that what’s going into her body is indeed changing how she sees things, including, but not limited to, the very fabric of the universe.
If you go
“Lucy,” rated R
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 89 minutes
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik and Amr Waked
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
While studying in Taiwan, American party girl Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) hasn’t made the best choices, the worst of which has been trusting her new boyfriend, Richard (Pilou Asbaek), when he asks her to do him a favor. Forced is a more accurate word, as he sends her to drop off a mysterious briefcase to an international crime lord (Choi Min-sik), who wants something more than a delivery person.
It isn’t long before Lucy finds herself with an incision in her abdomen and a plastic bag of a potent synthetic drug placed inside her body that her new employer expects her to smuggle out of the country. If this weren’t enough, a tear in the bag causes the material within to leak into her bloodstream with immediate effects.
And not necessarily bad effects — the massive dosage of drugs unlocks something in Lucy’s mind that allows her to have greater control over her body and process information at phenomenal rates.
Suddenly, everything makes sense. Suddenly, all her fears are gone.
Not only does this enable her to escape from her captors, but it could mean much more for her and all the world.
Johansson’s opening scene from “Lost in Translation” as she was stirred from slumber was more memorable than her re-awakening here, as her new prescription causes her eyes to change a dozen different colors, but it’s what happens after she picks herself up off the dirty floor or hospital bed that matters, wielding brainpower that shows no signs of slowing down. With a staggering amount of coolness, it’s entirely plausible to think of her as the über-woman, constantly discovering new capabilities that humankind has yet to discover within itself.
This process is helped along for the laypeople with assistance from Morgan Freeman — who, even in fiction, makes anything sound smarter and more authoritative — as a renowned neurology expert theorizing for a college lecture hall just what could happen if 100 percent of the brain could be harnessed, dumbfounded when he comes across someone who’s on their way to hitting their full potential.
As for someone who comes into the scenario fresh, Egyptian actor Amr Waked holds his own as a French detective who helps — or at least doesn’t get in the way of — Lucy as she tracks down the other drug mules who have been sent around the globe so that she even further can access the power of the powder.
You don’t want to see her in withdrawal from this stuff.
The scientific explanation for this drug, CPH4, sounds about as hokey as you’d expect, but of course it’s just a means to an end. Do you want to know how it’s made, or do you want to see ScarJo imbued with virtually every superpower because of it?
Writer-director Luc Besson hasn’t been too noteworthy in the last year with his name attached to “The Family,” “3 Days to Kill” and “Brick Mansions,” yet a movie that’s about someone getting smarter and smarter somehow works with his less-than-intellectual approach. Factually, it’s ridiculous, but what we see in Lucy — who shares her name with the earliest forebear of the human species, Australopithecus — is a boldly ambiguous statement from the filmmaker: “I don’t know what this might be like, but here’s what I think could be possible.”
2010’s “Limitless” speculated on the idea of greater use of gray matter, and this year’s techno-bomb “Transcendence” approached the concept of a human nearing omniscience, but both were so bogged down with reality, or some facsimile of it, they forgot to just let go and let the imagination soar.
Besson’s tactics of stylized gunplay and crazy car chases throughout work well enough, with the use of Animal Planet-type footage an unusually handy choice at the beginning, though it’s hardly a complete story considering the buildup to the conclusion.
Since the purpose of “Lucy” is to entertain and not enlighten, Besson can be pardoned for his typically abrupt finale, given the better-than-expected content before it. Still, let’s be clear: Just like Liam Neeson in “Taken” or Bruce Willis in “The Fifth Element,” it’s Johansson who makes him look good, and that’s not just because her character can alter her hair length and color at will.
This fun ride may not be 100 percent satisfying, but nobody’s perfect, right? Well, maybe one person.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.