Writer/director Luc Besson used about 7% writing this. It’s a film about somebody that becomes very smart, yet so much of it is really, really stupid. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a lot of fun, though.
Scarlett Johansson plays somebody even smarter than the computer she was in Her. She’s an American in Taiwan who gets forced into running an errand for a guy she’s been seeing for a week. This leads to her being kidnapped by gangsters. They have an interesting way of getting their drugs into other countries. They kidnap people and have doctors surgically implant the contraband near the stomach. Of course, in the first set of many unrealistic things that happen, these gangsters tell them if they inform the authorities their families will be killed. Yeah, well…if they don’t? What happens then? Do they get to the destination, let you take the drugs out of their stomach, get stitched up and sent upon their merry way? When you watch this, just set all that aside. So much of the science and logic behind anything doesn’t make sense, but how can you enjoy a fun car chase down the wrong way of a busy street unless you just sit back and smile at the shenanigans.
The problem arises for Lucy when a guy tries to rape her while she’s captured. She isn’t there long enough to get Stockholm syndrome, so when she fights back, she is beaten up. This includes multiple kicks to the stomach, which cause the bag of drugs to burst. It’s a synthetic mix of what pregnant women pass down to their babies. Scientists and doctors in this say that it’s the key to intelligence.
As Lucy’s brain capacity keeps increasing, she realizes she has about 24 hours to live. It sort of becomes the premise of D.O.A., except that she’s super-duper smart. That makes it easier to find the bad guys (and good). For some reason, it also gives her the ability to make villains collapse or levitate in the air. Not sure why they went the path that using your brain gives you those abilities; especially since we never really feel that Lucy is in much danger after watching this stuff happen. Isn’t part of putting you on the edge of your seat, knowing that the protagonist could die if they’re caught?
Early in the movie, the edits were fun. We saw animals hunting their prey, as the gangsters are hunting her. Later in the movie, they were ridiculous. It was like watching The Tree of Life or 2001.
Luc Besson creates strong female characters (The Fifth Element, The Professional, La Femme Nakita). He just ruins a lot of what he creates by making goofy action scenes. It was a much more fun time watching Limitless a few years ago, when Bradley Cooper takes a drug and is able to use 100% of his brain. He starts seducing every woman in sight and making money a variety of ways. And when gangsters come after him, sometimes he’s beaten up. Other times, he handles it like a grandmaster at chess – he sees many moves ahead of his opponent.
Morgan Freeman plays, yet again, the narrator. Not in the normal way he narrates a movie. He plays a professor that has studied the brain for 20 years, which lets him give all the exposition the audience needs (side note: he played a similar character in Transcendence earlier this year?)
Long time Besson cinematographer Thierry Arbogast makes things look dazzling, and Besson knows his way around a fun action sequence.
Johansson has a lot more action than her X-Men character has ever seen, and it’s fun watching her slowly transform into a person that has a lot less emotion and a lot more logic, the smarter she becomes. She doesn’t think twice about shooting somebody in the hospital so that the doctors can work on her instead. After all, she looked at the x-ray. There was no hope for that patient. The way Johansson does all this, and we can stay invested in her (despite the goofier and goofier science fiction they throw at is)…means she deserves a lot of credit for this.
What a thriller for singer/actress Sandra Abouav, who can tell her friends “I play Lucy in a new movie coming out with Morgan Freeman.”
They’ll be excited for her after seeing all the commercials, only to find out she plays the prehistoric Lucy in a few scenes.
There are some nice set-pieces for the action, and although the first half was great and the second half a mess…at an hour and a half, it was a perfect length for all this absurdity. I ended up enjoying the ride, and audiences are going to love it.
If only these action movies would stop with my movie pet peeve #3 – when you have a chance to kill some bad guys, do it. If you don’t, they’ll just come after you later in the movie.
This gets 3 stars out of 5.