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Johansson is fun to watch but 'Lucy' is all action and no brains

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Lucy movie

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Release date: July 25, 2014

Written and directed by: Luc Besson

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, and Min-sik Choi

Several times during "Lucy" Morgan Freeman rambles something about maximizing brain potential, claiming that most humans only use about 10% of the brain's capacity. You won't need to use nearly that much of your own brain energy to understand the nonsensical plot. In fact the less you try and understand what's going on in this high-octane action flick starring Scarlett Johansson, the more you're likely to enjoy it for the goofy thrill ride that it is.

Johansson plays Lucy, a naive and reckless girl, who is forced to be a drug mule for a Chinese drug lord. The bad guys surgically place a bag of a radical new drug called CPH4 in Lucy's gut. But an accident during transport opens the bag and spills the drug directly into her blood and sending her brain into overdrive. Instantly she becomes an unstoppable, super computer able to manipulate everything from electronics to the capacity to read minds.

Her only real ally, not that she really needs one as she evolves, is Morgan Freeman, who plays a summation of just about every character he typically plays -- it actually may be the same character he plays in "Transcendence". Probably not, but it's eerily similar. Here he's an esteemed neuroscientist, who narrates the movie as there is a a vague connection between all the bonkers things that happen to Lucy and real actual science. The problem is, there's never a learning curve for Lucy. She wakes up. The drugs have kicked in and it's like she understands all of her super human powers instantly. Even then there is no internal struggle where Lucy battles her evolution and tries to cling to what is left of her humanity.

Johansson handles what she is given in the script, written by director Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element", "Leon"), about as well as can be expected. She is a great actress and it really shows during the few scenes where Lucy seems vulnerable. But most of the movie, she is in Terminator mode, effortlessly mowing through anyone that gets in her way. It's a shame, in a movie that is all about evolving humanity, it lacks the emotional connectivity necessary get the audience to buy in to Lucy's free fall.

Besson is in full John Wood mode here. The action is all highly choreographed into beautiful slow motion sequences that defy reality. A lot of the movie, especially early on, is intercut with footage of wild animals and cavemen, etc. as a compare and contrast of human evolution and its place in nature. At times it's a bit too much, like when Lucy is heading into certain doom early on with this drug deal and Besson intercuts scenes of a mouse heading towards a trap and a gazelle being stalked by a cheetah. It's pretty obvious that this situation isn't going to go well without Besson's not so subtle nor clever cues.

"Lucy" is never quite as smart as it thinks it is. In fact the less you think during think about what is happening, the more enjoyment you're likely to get out of it. Johansson proves to be able to handle all of the action that comes her way, but it all seems pointless as the movie rambles towards an incoherent, messy climax. If you're able to keep your own brain from trying to make sense of it, it's fun enough to make you think you might have learned something about science. But you haven't.

Running time: 90 minutes.

MPAA rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality.

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