Ever think about your brain? You know, the interconnecting, synaptic, flash-pot raceway of noodles, bad ideas, delicious memories and enchilada recipes? Yeah, that one. Now, have you ever thought about Scarlett Johansson’s brain? No, the brain is up here. Don’t stare there … look up … up some more. There you go!
It’s a well-known scientific fact (at least for the purposes of this movie and review), that we humans only use 10 percent of our brains. What would happen if we tapped into more? Say, all the way up to 100 percent? That is the query put forth and answered in Lucy, the latest Johansson vehicle recently out on Blu-Ray, DVD and Betamax (I made the last one up). My lazy ass finally got around to watching it. Here are my thoughts.
Lucy (Johansson) is a college student in Taiwan (don’t ask me), who gets hoodwinked by a greasy slimebucket named Richard (Pilou Asbæk) into delivering a briefcase full of mysterious contents to Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). Lucy is “hired” (along with three other hapless, useful idiots) by Jang and his merry band of murderers and drug runners to deliver content of said briefcase to Europe. It’s a drug (surprise!), that Jang says the kids will love. The drug is blue, and I love me some blue, so, right on. The method by which they are going to smuggle the drugs into Europe is how the plot is ignited, so I won’t spoil it for you. Just know that this method exposes Lucy to potentially lethal amounts of this drug and turns her into a cerebral-cell-multiplying death machine who doesn’t much care for Jang and his asshole thugs. All the while the action cuts back and forth to Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) giving a speech (complete with footage of animals doin’ it!) about how humans are limited to 10 percent of our brains, and his hypotheses of what could happen if we were able to use more.
Lucy: Poor girl. All she wants to do when the movie opens is “take a shower and study.” Don’t know if she ever got that shower, but, holy buckets, does she study. Her exposure to the aforementioned blue yum-yum steadily increases the percentage of her brain she is able to use. Director Wes Ball even gives us periodic status reports on the screen (10 percent, 28 percent, 50 percent, and so on). Most fascinating is how she becomes less and less human as she uses more and more of her brain. The smarter Lucy gets the more her speech becomes a machine-gun monotone. We see Lucy transform from an average college student abroad with horrible taste in men to a seemingly invincible human tank, dispensing lethal punishment in all of Johansson’s lips-and-hips glory. And she not only develops powers that turn her into a one-woman army, she also is able to diagnose her roommate’s liver problems with a single touch and read 6,000 pages of Professor Norman’s research on the human brain in seconds. Not too bad for an afternoon’s work. And she touches a monkey at the end of the movie. You can never go wrong when Scarlett Johansson is touching a monkey.
Richard: This character’s sole purpose is to set the movie in motion. Looking like a cross between a life-size Muppet and a dollar-store version of The Dude, this greasy-haired loser in a cowboy hat tricks Lucy into delivering the briefcase. And be glad he does. The movie would have sucked (and likely never made) had he been the one to dispense the jackhammer justice that propels the second and third acts. My only issue is how the character is simply discarded in a way that doesn’t make much sense and is pretty damn unbelievable, even within this fantasy landscape.
Mr. Jang: Much like Richard, Jang exists only as a utility – albeit one with a lot more screen time. Jang is another Hollywood version of the chunky, Korean villain guy. Although he has a formidable presence on the screen, Jang is simply interchangeable with any other character that exists solely to be a villain. For all the (lack of) character development Ball gives Jang, he might as well be a lobster in a space suit. And I find it astonishing that mere hours after his hands are affixed to a chair’s arm rests with daggers, he is able to shoot guns with nary a care. But, hey, this movie is the stuff of miracles, right? And this is where the script falters a bit. Why is Jang left alive during the sequence where all of the men guarding him are killed? The answer is simply to provide a vehicle for conflict, gun fire and explosions in the final act. Yeah, Jang kind of sucks. But if you don’t apply his existence and actions to the laws of reality, he does okay.
Professor Norman: Morgan Freeman again plays that Morgan Freeman character, only in a white lab coat. Why a professor needs to wear a white lab coat, I don’t know. Freeman’s trademark velveteen-gravel voice and simultaneous look of bewilderment and “Damn, I need a nap!” are on glorious display here. Regardless, Freeman is always cool. And to juxtapose his slow-speaking delivery with Lucy’s rapid-fire tongue is a bit of brilliance. Norman doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot here, but his presence does give a comforting anchor of normalcy amidst all of the gun-foolery.
Pierre: Amr Waked plays Pierre, the Paris cop that enables much of Lucy’s vengeful plan. He knows he is no match for Lucy’s mental dynamite, so he basically gives up and becomes her partner of sorts. When he asks Lucy why she needs him, Lucy replies that he is a “reminder” of what it’s like to be human and gives him a big went one on the lips. Yeah, Pierre’s cool. I like Pierre.
Bottom Line: Lucy is not without its flaws. A green-screen CGI sequence near the end looks as fake as those iron-on transfer t-shirts you would get at the mall during the 1980s. And the movie’s noticeable lack of character development is a little distracting for those of us who get off on suspending our disbelief. But in the end, it just doesn’t matter. Lucy is pure escapism, a live action cerebral cartoon on meth and steroids (stethroids?) that shouldn’t be overanalyzed. I guarantee this will be among the quickest and most entertaining 90 minutes you will ever spend, this side of staring at Scarlett Johansson’s, uh, brain.