Lucy is a mindless thriller

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If humans use only ten percent of their Brian’s capacity, what would happen if one was able to use more? Luc Besson’s new thriller Lucy tries and fails to answer this question in thought-provoking and experimental way while still packing a punch. At best this film is violent and forgettable; at worst it is bizarre, insubstantial, and flat.

Lucy, an American student in Taiwan (Scarlett Johansson), is forced to carry a new synthetic drug inserted in her body for a seedy cartel headed by Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik). The bag of drugs leaks during an unexpected altercation and gets absorbed into Lucy’s body. Lucy then discovers her new physical and mental strength, which leads her to  Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a scientist researching the human brain’s potential.

The film’s plot features many elements of a standard action movie: a seedy foreign enemy, drugs, travel to other countries, a famous lead, and lots of violence. Lucy‘s story also has touches of science fiction, but nothing exciting or brand-new. Lucy’s objective throughout the film is unclear – we never really understand what she wants to do with her new abilities or why. Lucy relies on its fight sequences to advance the plot, but they have no style or motivation. The dialogue in the film is either strange or instantly forgettable. The exchanges between Mr. Jang and Lucy have been done a thousand times before, but I hope a scene where Lucy calls her mother, tells her she remembers being born and breast-fed, and thanks her, is never done again.

As Lucy becomes more and more powerful, she becomes less and less interesting. For those hoping Johansson’s performance would resemble her work as action hero Black Widow in The Avengers, prepare for disappointment. This talented actress suffers from a horrible screenplay, and ends up giving a confused, robotic performance (she played an actual robot better in Her). Freeman has the same issue, and gives a bland performance as a man with nothing at stake. Lucy constantly left me wondering how these two actors became involved with this project, and if they’ve fired their agents yet.

The film’s first act almost feels experimental, incorporating footage of animals stalking prey and featuring an overwhelming number of close-ups. There are too many close, creepy shots of the bag of drugs being inserted and removed from Lucy’s body, doing nothing to advance the plot. Lucy abuses nauseating zoom shots, but most of its other visual effects are cool. These effects still can’t make up for a lack of story. Though it’s only 90 minutes long, it drags on without any clear arc or a satisfying ending.

Though Lucy had the potential to be a summer hit, it completely misses the mark. Without a coherent plot, stellar acting, or any clear theme, this film is unbalanced and not the brainy thriller it set out to be.