[Screen It]


(2014) (Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman) (R)

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Action: A young woman must contend with being given a synthetic drug that unleashes the full power of her brain.
Lucy (SCARLETT JOHANSSON) is a young woman living in Taiwan who's been seeing Richard (PILOU ASBAEK) for a week when she learns that he delivers locked briefcases to a particular hotel for large sums of cash. He doesn't want to return and thus asks her to deliver his latest briefcase, but when she refuses, he cuffs the case to her wrist.

Once inside the hotel, she asks for Mr. Jang (MIN-SIK CHOI), is abducted by his men, and soon learns of the briefcase's content. It's a synthetic version of the drug CPH4 and she and several other drug mules have packets of the blue stuff surgically inserted into their abdomens.

After a run-in with a thug, the bag inside her bursts and releases the drug that immediately increases the active percentage of how much of her brain is used. Suddenly equipped with super intelligence and various physical gifts, she gets French policeman Pierre Del Rio (AMR WAKED) to accompany her as she seeks out Professor Norman (MORGAN FREEMAN), a renowned theorist about the human brain and its capacity.

As her percentages keep increasing, she must contend with the changes that brings about in her body and mind, all while Mr. Jang seeks to get revenge on her.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
It's amazing how the human brain works. Whether it's subconsciously keeping the human body alive or consciously figuring out and solving problems, creating various forms of art, or even looking in on itself, that roughly three pounds of organic material locked within the skull is a powerful computer. Yet, it's not infallible. Repeatedly fed the wrong information and it will more often than not construe that it's true, even if it's counter to common sense.

Take, for instance, the commonly held belief that humans only use ten percent of their brains. I can't recall exactly when I first "learned" that, but it was long ago and I bet if you ask most lay people if it's true, they'll say it is because they heard it at some point in their lives. Of course, it's a fallacy, and a fairly obvious one at that if you take the time to think about it or simply do a little research on the matter.

Nevertheless, the folks behind the action sci-fi flick "Lucy" certainly hope you're among the ten percent believers -- or can at least turn off your brain and go with the notion -- as that's the central premise that drives the movie forward. Yet, for a film that's about a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) who's exposed to a synthetic drug that increases her brain functioning percentages (marked by title cards that pop up on the screen with the ever higher numbers), it gets progressively dumber and far-fetched as it goes.

As written and directed by Luc Besson, the "don't think too hard about it" plot goes like this. The title character ends up cuffed to a briefcase full of a synthetic drug, CPH4, that's to be delivered to a ruthless and barbaric crime lord (Min-Sok Choi). He has innocent people kidnapped to be used as drug mules for smuggling the stuff to other parts of the world for reasons that aren't exactly clear (at least regarding what he and others mistakenly think the drug will do for the end users).

When a thug roughs up Lucy, her packet (that's been surgically implanted in her belly) ruptures, thus spilling the drug that, oddly enough, has her somehow rolling up the wall and across the ceiling as if being a clumsy Fred Astaire in "Royal Wedding." At the same time, we see clips of a renowned professor (Morgan Freeman) giving a presentation where he discusses the potential of humans ever using more than their current ten percent, all of which apparently is supposed to set the stage for convincing viewers that miraculous (and apparently gravity defying) abilities are waiting in the wings.

She keeps escalating, the villain wants her dead, and she oddly gets a French cop (Amr Waked) to help get her to meet Freeman's character (which seems pointless considering her super abilities means she's already read and digested all of his combined writings and works). Of course, it's all designed for Besson ("The Fifth Element," "Leon: The Professional") to execute various action sequences, gun battles and such, all while trying to provide a heady experience designed to stimulate your intellect as much as your instinctual reaction to the mayhem.

I'll readily admit that it was somewhat fun to watch, even when the filmmaker throws in odd metaphorical cutaways of nature doing her thing (mating, birthing, killing, etc.) as related to humans. But that truly can only happen with complete suspension of disbelief, not only due to the increasingly outrageous things Lucy can accomplish with increased brain functioning (time travel, instantaneous morphing of her arm from having two hands to webbed fingers and back to normal in a matter of seconds, etc.) but also why she doesn't simply dispatch the bad guys in one fell swoop. We know what she's capable of and thus there's no worry about the villains.

The reason, of course, is that we wouldn't have much of a movie if they were gone. I'm shocked, though, that the filmmakers didn't at least go down the conventional storytelling route of having the crime boss realize what the drug's done for his so-called mule and then take some to battle her as well as become all-powerful himself.

By the time Lucy travels back in time and has a carnivorous dinosaur charge at her in her office chair (that's come along for the ride), the film has long since, as the kids like to say, jumped the shark. In fact, by then, said shark has been jumped so many times it will likely have filed a restraining order against the filmmakers for repeated harassment. Your brain might want to do the same. Often easily watchable but not quite goofy or preposterous enough to become a full-out guilty pleasure, "Lucy" takes a dumb "fact" and only makes it stupider as it goes. Fun for a while until your brain eventually screams "Enough already!" the film rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed July 22, 2014 / Posted July 25, 2014

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