Scarlett Johansson stars as the titular American living in Taipei, who finds herself bestowed with superhuman abilities after a stash of über-potent synthetic drugs she’s being forced to transport in her abdomen bursts open. In a matter of minutes, she morphs from terrified victim to one-woman vengeance machine, intent on harnessing the drug’s power to further boost her powers and make sure the Korean crime lord (Min-sik Choi) responsible for her fate suffers for his assorted misdeeds. She’s able to tap into an increasing amount of her brain capacity, and with each additional percentage point of use she can do cool new things. Lucy can read minds! Lucy can manipulate matter! Lucy can control time! Lucy can grow an extra hand!
Along the way, our ever-more-detached-from-humanity heroine enlists the aid of a renowned scientist (Morgan Freeman) and a bewildered French cop (Amr Waked), but they’re little more than set dressing as she goes on her increasingly destructive mission. And, all the while, the viewer is left to wonder where the chaos is headed.
Problem is, the whole film is one epic crescendo of crazy. As the story progresses, it gets more and more trippy and strange, until finally devolving into a closing 15 minutes that seriously made me wonder whether writer-director Luc Besson – known for his ass-kicking female characters – might actually have been totally high when he dreamt them up. Or when he wrote the entire thing, for that matter.
Johansson is always an engaging lead, and she does her best with the lunacy here. Lucy is much more interesting in the first half of the film, though, when she still has her emotions. The more robotic she becomes, the less convincing the character is and the more I saw Johansson instead of her onscreen alter ego. I’m not sure what her direction was from Besson, but (with all the wide-eyed blank stares and jerky head/neck twitches) it started to look like he might have said “behave now as though Lucy were a pigeon.”
Besson tries to help the audience understand his vision, over and over again, with “inspiration montages” of random stock footage inserted to help convey a given tone and mood. When he isn’t slapping in sequences of, say, an antelope being hunted by a cheetah or two rhinos getting it on, he’s dropping in scenes of Freeman – whose character delivers a seemingly endless lecture on the nature of brain capacity – for expositional purposes. Who needs title cards explaining what’s to come when you have Freeman’s character outright telling you?
And though the movie is unapologetically ridiculous, it’s also surprisingly violent. There is a lot of collateral damage, and dozens upon dozens of bodies (many of innocent bystanders to the mayhem) start to pile up, which was, for me, off-putting.
Again, it’s really hard for me to say whether this a film you should check out or one you should avoid. But one thing is certain: if you see it, you won’t be bored.