Review: ‘Lucy’ (Drug-induced godhood, anyone?)

It’s hard for humans to relate to a character becoming LESS human.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a student going to college in Taiwan (really?) and finds herself in a bad situation: a local drug lord is moving lab-made human growth hormones as a new narcotic for global distribution. As one of four foreigners chosen, each has a bag surgically stitched into their abdomens to act as drug mules through airports. Unfortunately, Lucy is kidnapped (also…really?) into a white slave den before getting to a plane and (also also really?) gets kicked in the stomach, releasing a massive dose of the designer drug into her system…and only Morgan Freeman’s questionable pseudoscience brain theories can do, well, something or another.

This isn’t the worst idea from a pure fantasy concept, but in any realm of science fiction, this thing flies off the rails fast. Even if this were plausible, the story is all over the place, trying to rationalize what’s happening with Terrence Malick-inspired flashback clips to other eras (dinosaurs, early man, and such). With regards to conflict and drama, neither materializes; Lucy’s emotional distress never rises above her original ordeal, and she doesn’t appear to have much in the way of any significant ties to her previous life to be missed. There is also a weird narration by Lucy that also goes unexplained, and not one other character is developed enough to provide any real contrasting point of view. Was this how it was written, or did the filmmakers actually think that Johansen and Freeman could carry the movie on acting ability alone?

All the drama is front-loaded into this thriller, starting with a shady character asking Lucy for a favor. The pacing is tight and echoes Quentin Tarantino ultra-violence more than writer/director Luc Besson’s own work. It’s surreal for both the main character and the audience to suffer through all the bad that destroys one young woman’s world in less than twenty-four hours…and then comes the inexplicable jump to potential sex slave. It feels like there was a scene missing; the drug lord’s thugs and head of operations seemed to have thought everything out; how could they let this happen? It seems too happenstance after the slick mule-collection setup to just lose one-quarter of your shipment (keep in mind all this happens in the trailers and is essentially the first fifteen minutes of the movie).

Once the drugs literally kick in, Lucy becomes less and less interesting as she goes. Maybe this film was designed for higher consciousness; perhaps a lot of alcohol or something harder was intended to be involved. The final act culminates in some kind of Matrix-esque “Quantum Leap” montage through so-so CGI backgrounds and worse – don’t get me started on the badly realized Akira-styled organic computer that oozes out of the main character and merges with actual rack servers (I wish I were making this up). The entire movie plays out like someone either needed to collect a fast paycheck or quite possibly lost a bet. Is it fair to assume someone may have been USING a massive amount of highly experimental, illegal designer drugs when they came up with this?

(a one skull recommendation out of four)

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