by Jon Olsen
Innocent Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a foreign exchange student in China who gets forced into delivering a package to a Chinese mob boss with sinister intentions, but things go from bad to worse when Lucy unwittingly comes into contact with a chemical substance that unlocks the full potential of her brain, allowing for insane and incredible abilities. She goes on a quest for revenge and meaning (in that order), and the 90-minute running time is filled with equal parts action and nonsensical exposition.
The most jarring thing about this film is the scope it attempts to capture, seemingly asking questions about life, history, the result of human evolution and the true purpose of life. This is all mirrored with a story of a one-note blonde woman walking calmly through corridors and rooms, shooting multiple people, devoid of emotion. The director seems to want us to wrestle with what it means to be human, even going so far as to dedicate a good section of the movie to Lucy and Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) discussing that very topic openly and outwardly (it’s also the first conversation the two characters ever have).
Aside from the lopsided message of the film, it’s tone is equally as confusing. Lucy and the rest of the characters in her movie can’t seem to decide if they are in a serious, gritty sci-fi thriller or in a B-movie that wants to be the bastard child of Limitless and The Matrix. Life-pondering questions are being asked out loud by one character as another slides down a hallway in the middle of a firefight, screaming and firing a bazooka. At one point, Lucy gets into a car with Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), telepathically moves him from the drivers seat to the passenger seat, starts driving down the wrong side of the road in Paris at full speed, and calmly tells him, “I’ve never driven before.” The audience laughed, but both characters were stone-faced and serious. Del Rio never reacts with surprise or wonder, even as Lucy begins to do all sorts of wild things with her brain.
Scarlett Johansson is really trying with the script she was given, but there wasn’t a lot to work with, and it shows. Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman, largely onscreen to explain to Lucy or other scientists what is happening in layman’s terms, does what is expected of him from an acting standpoint but brings absolutely no charm or charisma to his character; something we know he is capable of doing. The tertiary characters are all very one-note, and as such none of them really stand out.
It should be noted that the action in the movie isn’t bad. It’s handled well onscreen and was even fun in some moments. But the rest of the film really kills any fun that the movie could be. Lucy is hard to root for, particularly because her emotions literally exit her body as her brain’s capacity begins to increase. She even tells Del Rio “We never really die” at one point, essentially telling the audience, “Don’t waste your time caring about me.” In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, Lucy is speaking to her mother on the phone, trying to explain what is happening to her. She recounts memories she could possibly remember from her childhood, and at one point actually begins to describe in detail the experience of breastfeeding. To her mother. It was one of the many times throughout the movie where I muttered under my breath, “…What on earth is going on?“
Lucy is not worth your time. I wish I could say that it was, but then I’d be lying to you. It’s plot, over-exposition, poor characters and emotionless heroine combine into a lackluster movie experience that could have been so much better. Here’s hoping they never greenlight a sequel.