By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Scarlett Johansson has gone the not-exactly-girl-next-door route before — frequently of late, in fact, in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Under the Skin, Her, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
But as the title character in Lucy, she plays a hyper-intelligent, super-strong, meta-human who gets her super-powers from a super-drug, something called CPH4.
Lucy is a science-fiction action thriller about a young woman living in Taipei, Taiwan, who is forced to work as a drug mule for the mob, transporting pharmaceutical material into the United States.
As a result of a plastic bag of a blue-powdered drug implanted in her stomach inadvertently leaking and seeping into her system, she gains extraordinary mental powers.
For openers, her brain capacity expands to the point that she can access nearly 30 percent of it (compared to the typical 10 percent that the rest of us can employ). So she can now assimilate information instantaneously.
Furthermore, she can move objects telekinetically, toss people around as if they’re weightless, simply choose to ignore pain, and reverse time. You know — minor skills like that.
She would, in other words, sure be handy to have around as an assistant.
Which is why her tormentors will be up against it when she decides to take them on.
Morgan Freeman plays a professor, an expert in the field of neurology, who lectures on the untapped power of the human mind. And his observations are used as narration and commentary on what’s happening to Lucy.
Do their paths eventually cross? Of course they do.
Meanwhile, helpful title cards count down (that is, up) as Lucy’s brain power climbs from (ho-hum) 1 percent and heads for (holy moley!) 100 percent.
The movie itself, however, uses a lot less than 100 percent of its brain.
Give writer-director-and-editor Luc Besson (The Professional, La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, The Lady, The Family) –- no stranger to movies showcasing tough female protagonists — credit for having a fanciful agenda beyond the pure action components of his hoodlum thriller. But he doesn’t trust his theme of brain capacity enough to follow through on it.
Instead, he assigns Lucy a preposterous and arbitrary skill set -– silly in the way of comic books and video games — that doesn’t follow any rules of internal logic and keeps settling for generic shoot-em-up sequences and the cheap shocks of graphic violence.
It’s an unusual combination of intellectual pretentiousness and automatic-weapons brainlessness -– sometimes both at the same time -– and it is oddly suspenseless.
Later, he wraps things up so abruptly and incompletely (remember, he served as his own editor) that he seems to throw up his hands, in a hurry to get this over with and go home.
Johansson commits to the role and proves to be an assured and imposing action heroine, while Freeman, looking bored by the whole shebang, is severely underemployed.
But it’s Besson’s show all the way and his actors neither help nor hinder.
So we’ll pick the brain of 2 stars out of 4.
Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do!