Lucy: A mindless movie about brain power

2 out of 4 stars

Not even Scarlett Johansson, who dazzled in recent hits “Her” and “Under the Skin,” is genius enough to save “Lucy,” a movie about brain power that grows dumber as she gets smarter.

Scarlett Johansson's fighting style in "Lucy" looks a lot like Nero's in "The Matrix." (Courtesy of Universal)
Scarlett Johansson’s fighting style in “Lucy” looks a lot like Nero’s in “The Matrix.” (Courtesy of Universal Studios)

It’s not Johansson’s fault entirely, considering she’s cast in writer-director Luc Besson’s mindless plot about a partying, American college student who goes from inadvertently becoming a drug mule while studying in Taiwan to being the smartest person on the planet.

Sure, the plot is absurd, but the same can be said for Besson’s 1997 sci-fi hit “The Fifth Element,” which grossed about $264 million worldwide.

But it’s impossible to classify “Lucy,” which “borrows” or “steals” – depending on your point of view – elements from so many films it becomes one 88-minute mess. The first scene is shot in the same way Oliver Stone filmed the opening to “Natural Born Killers” before “Lucy” morphs into a bad remake of “The Matrix”and”2001: A Space Odyssey,”  while all the using Morgan Freeman’s character to replicate what he does in “Through the Wormhole” on the Discovery Channel. It’s unclear if “Lucy” intentionally incorporated comedy into this mindless movie, but it’s never good when only about a third of the audience chuckles.

Morgan Freeman and Scarlett Johansson try to discover the brain's infinite power in "Lucy." (Courtesy of Universal)
Morgan Freeman and Scarlett Johansson try to discover the brain’s infinite power in “Lucy.” (Courtesy of Universal Studios)

Lucy is kidnapped by a Korean gang led by Mr. Jang, played terrifically by the villainous Choi Min-sik, and has highly potent synthetic drug called CPH4 surgically placed into her stomach and is sent on her way, where she’ll be met by gangsters who will remove it and sell it throughout Europe.

One problem: the bag tears and the drug transforms Lucy into a super computer, enabling her to go from using the 2 or 3 percent of her brain like most people into 100 percent of it by the end of a 24-hour period. She goes from being a scared girl to a butt-kicking blonde whose fighting style would make Neo in “The Matrix” envious.

Her goal is acquire the three other bags of CPH4 that had been stuffed in the stomachs of three other drug mules before the bad guys get their hands on them – and her. But here’s the problem: Her body craves the drug, as she’ll disintegrate without it.

Meantime, she’s working with Professor Norman, a noted neurologist played by Freeman, so she can ingest every drop of the drug to see how far she can push her mental ability.

The movie is a series of 10-minute chapters, with her brain power increasing by about 10 percent in each one, yet by the end, you’ll still be scratching your head.

For a different take, please check out our sister website’s review of Lucy at Los Angeles Post-Examiner.