Based on the widespread misconception that humans only ever use 10% of their brain capacity, Lucy takes this very basic premise and asks what would happen if they were able to access it all. Written and directed by Luc Besson, who started his career with such incredible promise and made the cult masterpiece The Professional (or Leon) before spending the last decade and a half writing and producing high concept action movies of various quality and only directing his own, often bizarre, pet projects (such as the Arthur Trilogy), makes his most high-concept film yet, and surprisingly, it works extremely well.
With absolutely no back story, we’re immediately introduced to the titular Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), an American party girl living in Taiwan who’s been brought to a hotel by her deadbeat week-long boyfriend who dupes her into some sort of shady deal. It’s not long before the boyfriend is shot in front of her and its revealed the shady deal was for a new designer drug called CPH4. Soon after she’s knocked out and awakens to find a batch of it has been sewn inside her abdomen and she’s to be used as a drug mule to traffic it into the US. Things go haywire when the bag breaks inside her and she gradually starts being able to control the other 90% of her brain. The plot here on in is absolute hokum and often illogical, but at least the movie seems to be aware of it and blazes right through the next hour and change without letting up for a second.
As Lucy, Scarlett Johansson is spectacular. She commits herself entirely to the role and gives a completely dramatic and convincing portrayal in the first part as the victim before turning into a kickass superhero, delivering otherwise undeliverable dialogue with aplomb. In his most exposition filled role yet, Morgan Freeman cruises along as the brain expert who Lucy seeks out for help. As the lead gangster, Min-sik Choi (who film fans will recognize from the Korean Oldboy) gives a nuanced and strong performance that confirms him as one of the most under-utilized actors in cinema at the moment.
Despite the trite plot, Lucy is a surprisingly strong action thriller that manages to elevate the silliness of its concept to ask intriguing questions about human nature, intelligence and our place in the world. Also featuring a great performance from Johansson, itis a return to form for Besson and if nothing else, feels almost like the foreshadowing of another true masterpiece. Here’s hoping.
Lucy is in Australian cinemas from 31 July through Universal Pictures.