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Turn Off Your Brain

Lucy makes being smart look awfully dumb

Scarlett Johansson in Lucy
Scarlett Johansson is one smart bad-ass in Lucy. Photo by Jessica Forde/Universal Pictures
Morgan Freeman and Scarlett Johansson in Lucy
Morgan Freeman brings gravitas to everything he touches, even the ridiculousness in Lucy. Photo by Jessica Forde/Universal Pictures
Scarlett Johansson in Lucy
Lucy's accessing of more of her brain leads to some trippy moments. Photo by Jessica Forde/Universal Pictures

Most movies require that viewers suspend their disbelief at least a little in order to properly enjoy the stories they have to tell. However, the latest from writer/director Luc Besson, Lucy, uses a premise so absurd that suspension of disbelief is almost impossible to come by.

Scarlett Johansson plays the titular Lucy, a girl who inadvertently gets caught up in the game of international drug trafficking. Forced to carry a pouch of a new drug inside her abdomen by a Chinese drug syndicate, Lucy starts accessing heretofore-untapped areas of her brain after the pouch ruptures inside of her.

 Scarlett Johansson plays the titular Lucy, a girl who inadvertently gets caught up in the game of international drug trafficking.

Concurrently, we see Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) giving a lecture in Paris about the potential of the brain, repeating the myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brainpower. When students quiz him on what would happen if anyone were able to use more of their brain, the stakes of the film are set.

Despite the ludicrous set-up — scientists have long proved that humans use the entire brain, if not all at the same time — Besson does do a decent job pushing the film forward. Lucy’s escape from her handlers and her subsequent mission to recover drugs put into other people both have a certain propulsion to them that’s undeniable.

Unfortunately, it’s everything surrounding her that takes the wind out of the movie’s sails. Besson apparently decided that he didn’t have enough story to properly fill out even a miniscule 89-minute film, using stock footage to make points that were already blatantly obvious.

He also employs several scenes using an actor in the worst Homo erectus makeup you’ve ever seen, stopping the film dead in its tracks with unintended laughter every time he appears.

What keeps the film from completely going off the tracks is the performance of Johansson, who, as she’s proven in the Marvel movies, knows how to kick butt in a believable way. Even though the quantity of action in the film is relatively minimal, she delivers when it does happen.

She sells the film’s quieter moments, as well, especially those with Freeman. Freeman, of course, is the pro’s pro, and his presence lends the film an air of authenticity that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

Lucy is a fun film to ponder for a while, but the more Besson uses ideas and techniques that seem cribbed from a hundred other filmmakers, the less enjoyable it becomes.

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