Scarlet Johansson as Lucy


DIRECTOR: Luc Besson

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)

Ty Burr

IS THE position of Earth’s alien overlord open? Because I think Scarlett Johansson’s gunning for the job. In last year’s Her, the actress (pictured) played the voice of a sentient computer system that expands to fill the known universe, while the cult hit Under the Skin posited her as extraterrestrial man-bait linked to a spooky hive mind.

Now Luc Besson’s Lucy puts the two together and ups the ante. By the end of this piece of entertain-ing claptrap from the director of La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element, Johansson is on the verge of becoming nothing less than God. And, no, we’re not worthy.

Her character starts the film as a dim American student in Taipei, arguing with her sleazy Dutch boyfriend (Pilou Asbaek) about a briefcase he needs her to drop off.

This being a Besson movie, things go south very quickly and very stylishly, and Lucy finds herself in the clutches of Asian drug lord Mr Jang (Min-sik). She’s one of his mules bound for the capitals of Europe, a new club drug bagged and surgically tucked up in her lower intestines.

Unfortunately for Lucy, the bag bursts open. Fortunately for the movie, the massive dose allows Lucy to gradually access 100 percent of her brain rather than your and my measly 10 percent. At 20 percent she can translate Mandarin on the fly and shoot bad guys with pinpoint precision.

At 40 percent, she can move furniture with her mind. You don’t want to know what 80 percent looks like.

Wait, wasn’t Bradley Cooper here in 2011’s Limitless? Yes, but Lucy takes the concept into eerier and more visually baroque territory than that much under-appreciated genre film. Where a fully juiced cerebellum just made Cooper’s character really, really capable, Lucy undergoes a meta-physical makeover that, by the film’s midpoint, has started to rearrange time, space and her body.

(And, wait, isn’t that whole “we only use 10 percent of our brains” concept pure neurobiology urban legend?) Yes, it is – by all accounts, most of our lights are on at any given time – but who comes to a Besson movie seeking logic?

Lucy stays true to its own invented physics, and, besides, if it’s real fake science you want, I Origins is opening in US cinemas this Friday as well.

Lucy does pose an interesting question, though: How would a superwoman appear to us mortals? As she goes through her changes, the heroine’s demeanour changes from scared to awed to… pre-occupied. Maybe even a little robotic (and here the similarity to Under the Skin seems overt).

Cursed and blessed with a giant throbbing brain, the poor woman multitasks away, searching the cellular data she can see streaming from our phones (it ascends to the skies like multicoloured marionette strings), typing on two laptops at once, and generally taking care of ontological business while the other characters pester her like gnats.

Make that heavily armed gnats. Mr Jang and his minions are on Lucy’s case as the action shifts to Paris, and because Besson needs a trusted face to explain the nonsense, we have Morgan Freeman as the world’s most lovable authority on theoretical brain enhancement.

(There’s a TV series in here somewhere: Shiva and the Professor.)

Lucy also likes to keep around a cute French police detective (Amr Waked), if only to remember what being human once felt like.

As a filmmaker, Besson is as audacious as he is shallow, and you know you’re in good hands early on when he intercuts Lucy’s initial foray into Jang’s lair with bloody nature footage from the Serengeti.

Towards the end, as Lucy amasses further powers and things with tentacles start happening, the movie resembles ’80s Cronenberg (good) and ’80s De Palma (not so good), with a chunk of late-’60s Kubrick tossed in to keep the stoners guessing.

It’s all ridiculous and enjoyable, and at the movie’s centre is an actress creatively guessing at what omniscience might feel like. I don’t know any other movie star going where Johansson has gone lately and it’s probably beside the point asking if she’s tired of the standard roles offered to pillow-lipped young actresses, or is actively engaged in exploring the outer limits of power and perception. Of classic stars it was said, “they had faces then”. Well, Johansson has a brain and it seems to be expanding at an alarming rate. Somebody call the professor. – Boston Globe

If you liked Under Her Skin or Her you will like this.


To celebrate the nationwide release of Lucy, Tonight is giving 5 lucky readers the chance to win a movie hamper. Each hamper consists of the following three DVDs: Paul; Ted; and Oblivion. To stand a chance of winning, all you have to do is answer this easy question:

Who directed Lucy?

Send your answer, as well as your contact details, to [email protected] Please put Lucy Competition in the subject bar. The competition closes on Wednesday, at midnight, Only the winners will be contacted.