Movie Review: 'Lucy' Starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman

PHOTO: Scarlett Johansson in a scene from "Lucy."

Starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman

Rated R

Three out of five stars

According to writer/director Luc Besson’s "Lucy," if we were able to use 100 percent of our brains, we’d become Neo and the world would be our Matrix. We’d be able to manipulate time, control people and change the configuration of our very cells.

Scarlett Johansson, as the title character Lucy, is able to do all of that and more, after she’s abducted, knocked out and wakes up with a bag of something called CPH4 surgically implanted in her stomach, which she’s forced to smuggle for some very nasty men. The blue synthetic drug emulates a substance produced in the womb that gives a fetus the energy to survive. When the bag breaks, the drug leaks into Lucy’s system, instantly endowing her with super powers -- or just a better brain.

Enter Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman, a neuroscientist with lots of theories about how much, or really how little, we use of our brains. While Lucy is being turned into an unwilling drug mule, Norman is lecturing at a Paris university about our untapped brain potential. If we only use 10 percent of our brains, he says, what might we be able to do if we could access the remaining 90 percent?

Lucy is suddenly using more than 20 percent of her brain, enough to give her the ability to escape her captors and expertly handle a gun. Her next move: go to a hospital and have a surgeon remove the bag of drugs from her belly, something she’s able to endure without anesthesia. She then calls in a tip to a French police officer about the other drug mules, and which countries they will be entering. Because Lucy wants the rest of the drugs for herself.

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What does Professor Norman have to do with all this? His research and theories serve as Lucy’s hypothetical blueprint for her transformation, and she needs his help. I think. It’s not really all that clear why she needs Norman and his colleagues -- since she’s becoming so intellectually superior to pretty much everyone, Lucy should be able to execute her plan without anyone’s help. It’s a major flaw in a story I was absolutely rooting for, but I eventually realized I was rooting for a losing team.

Johansson uses 100 percent of her acting ability to breathe life into a character that deserved better treatment. Lead roles for women in action movies are scarce, so kudos to Besson and company for trying to create something unique for one of Hollywood’s best -- but jeers to Besson and company as well for not allowing Lucy, a woman, to resolve this story without the help of men. That would’ve been a nice statement.

Ultimately, "Lucy" devolves into something that doesn’t make much sense. The good news is it starts out well and since it’s less than 90 minutes long, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your time on a mindless second and third act.

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