Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
Directed by: Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”)
Written by: Luc Besson (“Taken”)
There are stupid movies that are tons of fun, and there are stupid movies that are a considerable chore to sit through, offensive in their blatant stupidity. Some movies, like the recent works of Adam Sandler, seem fine with being the latter so long as Sandler gets to take his family and friends on a paid vacation to Hawaii or Africa disguised as a movie shoot. Then there are movies like “Lucy,” a brain-dead Eurotrash sci-fi/gangster mash-up filled with laughable pseudoscience, indifferent performances and nonsensical editing infuriating enough to make the swift 80-minute affair feel like an assault on the whole endeavor of movie going, making you question why you even bother leaving the house to watch this stuff.
“Lucy” opens in Taiwan, with Scarlett Johansson’s ditzy foreign student title character being forced to deliver a mysterious briefcase to a brutal Korean gangster (Min-sik Choi, channeling Gary Oldman in “The Professional”). Lucy ends up kidnapped, waking up with a plastic bag of an experimental drug sewn inside her abdomen. She and several others are to act as drug mules, smuggling the highly dangerous drug into various parts of Europe. Tied up before she’s to be sent off on a plane, Lucy is attacked by one of her captors, the violence of which ruptures the sac of drugs sending what should be a lethal dose coursing through her body. Only instead of killing her, the drug activates the unused parts of her brain, essentially turning Lucy into a superhero. Somehow unlocking her brain’s potential gives Lucy telekinetic powers, the ability to manipulate radio and TV waves, and the power to change her hair color and length at will. With the Korean gangsters on her tail, Lucy is on a mission to track down the rest of the drugs and contact Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), the world’s foremost authority on, um, speculative brain power, I guess?
Besson is a long way from the glory days of “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element” here, and, like “Taken” before it—which Besson only wrote and produced—“Lucy” feels like a cut-rate European B-movie with some big Hollywood stars slumming for the paycheck. The difference is that “Taken” powered through its pedigree with a somewhat magnetic performance from Liam Neeson. Here, though, Johansson’s default robotic vacancy and Freeman’s clear disinterest in the material do little to offset the absolute bullshit going on around them, whether its Lucy’s ridiculous escalating powers or Norman’s quackery about just what using 100 percent of your brain would lead to. By the time all the madness culminates in a shootout, a “2001: A Space Odyssey” knock off, and a cosmic thumb drive, you’re more likely to have lost some of your own brainpower along the way.