Luc Besson, the director of such films as La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, knows a thing or two about creating iconic female action heroes. His latest, Lucy, is another stab at a high-concept action movie with a tough chick at its centre.
 
That would be Scarlett Johansson, who plays an American student in Taiwan. Within the first ten minutes of the film, she’s kidnapped and forced to be a drug mule for an Asian gangster. But after taking a savage beating, when the package of mysterious blue crystals that’s been sewn into her abdomen ruptures inside her, the overdose in her bloodstream turns Lucy into a sort of superwoman. Not only is she incredibly strong now, it also unlocks corners of the brain never used by humankind, thus giving her the kind of impossible skills that even Black Widow, the character Johansson plays in The Avengers, would be envious of.
 
It’s a terrific B-movie premise (reminiscent of the Bradley Cooper thriller Limitless), but Besson seems more interested in the story’s clunky existential concepts than the slick action we’ve come to expect from him. The film cuts back and forth between Lucy becoming smarter and more skilled as her brain capacity increases, and a professor in Paris (Morgan Freeman) lecturing a class on the endless possibilities, if only a human were capable of using 100% of their brain. It’s a lazy spoon-feeding device, the idea of “explaining” verbally what’s playing out on screen. Even more bizarre are the jarring cuts to images of a tiger preying on its dinner, and Tree of Life-style evolution montages comprising everything from dinosaurs and simians to bustling urban metros.
 
Yet the first hour or so of this 90-minute film is pretty enjoyable, specifically when we stick with Lucy, who develops all sorts of amazing powers including the ability to make armed henchmen levitate in air. You root for her as she hunts down other bags of the drug, and there are even a few moments of genuine humor in the race-against-time scenario. But it all goes off the rails in the final act, when the narrative basically mirrors the chief conceit of the recent Johnny Depp turkey Transcendence. It’s a royal mess that I could make no sense of, to be honest.
 
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Lucy. At best it’s a guilty pleasure, with a convincing performance from Johansson who convincingly goes from victim to warrior with the ease of a pro.

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