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High-concept 'Lucy' mixes metaphysics and mainstream

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In “Lucy,” director Luc Besson tries to align lofty metaphysical and existential musings within a mainstream action/sci-fi film, but his experiment quickly goes awry.

Scarlett Johansson plays Lucy, a somewhat dim female, whose flavor-of-the-week, scummy boyfriend “forces” her to deliver a briefcase to an ultra-violent Taiwanese gangster, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). Unbeknownst to Lucy, the case is filled with a highly valuable blue crystallized form of CPH4 (reportedly important to the development of embryos in utero). Lucy is held at gunpoint, and soon the vile Taiwanese gangsters forcibly surgically implant a bag of the drugs in Lucy’s abdomen so she can transport it for distribution in Europe.

But, before she can leave Taiwan as a drug mule, a gangster baddie attempts have relations with Lucy. Unsatisfied by her rebuff, the gangster kicks her in the abdomen, hard enough for the implanted drugs to break open. Blue power crystals explosively spread throughout her body, rapidly transforming her being, superhero-style. Lucy quickly emerges as a phoenix of sorts, and her brain is reborn, with exponential elevation from a human-like 10% usage to increasing amounts of total cerebral use. Soon, Lucy’s huge percentage brain-gains allow her to not only manipulate her own appearance but also interrupt time and control others/objects. The woman, transformed, soon seeks out both Mr. Jang for information and neuro-cognitive scientist Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) to help record her transformation.

“Lucy” has been heavily advertised as a superhero tale (wronged woman becomes all-powerful and takes revenge on those who hurt her) and is peppered with rear-kicking scenes. But, in reality, the film is not the movie that’s been advertised. “Lucy” is less of an action film and more of an abstract, oddly paced musing on one central and repeated idea: what happens when a human can use more than 10% of her brain.

As such, scenes are strangely intercut with stock animal footage of a cheetah attacking a gazelle or a mouse in a trap (presumably to emphasize the measly animalistic origins of our low-level brain use) that feel totally out of place and far too obvious to be of intellectual viability for the viewer. Further, Freeman spends much of his screen time in a much-too-long speech to presumably give exposition and weight to the metaphysical storyline but, instead, his intellectualized gobbledygook just becomes redundant (and almost comical) in its frequent, choppy return between scenes of Lucy’s adventures.

The $40-million dollar film attempts to be artsy and indie by leaving weighty questions hanging while its transformed lead gunfights in Louboutins, but “Lucy” has nothing of sustained interest to ponder. Ultimately, Lucy’s evolution is robotic and unempathetic and, sadly, just plain nonsensical. Although Johansson admirably inhabits the very strange world of “Lucy,” there is little here to enjoy until it becomes future fodder for RiffTrax. “Lucy” is rated 1 of 5 stars.

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