Scarlett Johansson has shown herself to be a fairly versatile actress in her recent films. While some would argue her roles haven’t been particularly challenging, they’ve all been very different. Johansson as Black Widow is very different than Johansson in Don Jon, who is very different when compared to Johansson in Her. The Johansson we see in Lucy starts off as nothing we’ve really seen before, but by the end of the movie she’s channeling her inner Black Widow, with a touch of Her.
The basic premise behind Lucy is very similar to the plot of Limitless. Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a typical American student living in Taiwan (is that typical?). In an unfortunate and very tense series of events involving the Chinese mafia, she ends up getting a high dosage of a drug that essentially unlocks her higher brain functions over the course of the movie. Along the way she meets up with policeman Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), brain specialist Professor Normal (Morgan Freeman), mob boss Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), and an assortment of ancillary characters.
Let’s get the negative stuff out-of-the-way first, because there’s a lot to say about the movie that’s glowingly positive. The Chinese mafia led by Mr. Jang is overly relentless. They serve a very specific purpose in the movie, and even provide a nice adversary for Lucy to battle against, and some great tension early in the movie. However, at about the halfway point in the film, the mafia is really no longer needed, yet they continue to show up. Instead of creating more great moments of tension, you end up wondering why Lucy’s newfound powers aren’t ending any and all mob confrontations in an instant.
That one issue aside, Lucy is a nonstop rollercoaster that feels like a psychedelic mixture of The Matrix and Limitless, only with a far superior moral compass. The general plot of the movie closely parallels the plot of Limitless, and there are more than a few scenes that will make you think about The Matrix trilogy (mainly the first film). But at the core of the movie, Lucy isn’t after money, fame, or an endless search for the one. This is what gives Lucy much more weight and satisfaction compared to The Matrix and Limitless. Granted, nothing that happens in Lucy can top finding out the entire human race has been enslaved by machines, but Lucy’s actions hold far more weight than big explosions and learning Kung Fu.
Professor Norman is basically your guide through Lucy’s evolution. As a leading brain analyst, he essentially narrates the changes occurring in Lucy’s body. He is there to explain what’s going on so the audience can keep up, and Morgan Freeman plays this part to a tee. You need this character in the movie because the film almost never stops to take a breath. It clocks in at a fairly meager 90 minutes, but you never feel as though any time is wasted. Lucy uses all 90 minutes almost perfectly to give you everything you would want from the movie, without dragging things out using unnecessary dialogue or sloppy editing.
Is Lucy the best movie of the summer? Probably not. Is it extremely entertaining and one of the best 90-minute movies to hit in recent memory? Absolutely. Lucy is fast, fun, morally rewarding, and even a bit educational. Aside from the relentless nature of the Chinese mafia that makes you question a few of Lucy’s decisions, there isn’t much you can change about the movie to improve it. In fact, it would be interesting to see a sequel to Lucy, but it would likely be nothing like the first film. Lucy’s evolution throughout the film simply makes you want to know how the human race reacts to the events in the movie.
With heavy competition from Hercules this weekend, it’s difficult to imagine Lucy taking the top spot at the box office, but it’s definitely deserving of such honors. If you have 90 minutes to spar, don’t mind a bit of violence (Lucy is fairly tame, but the film is still rated R), and want to see what would’ve happened in Limitless if Bradley Cooper’s character didn’t care about money, do yourself a favor and go see Lucy.
Synopsis: A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.
Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
Runtime: 90 Minutes