Movie Review: ‘Lucy’ lacks substance, but good enough for summer fun

Scarlett Johannson is “Lucy,” the latest female not to be messed with from French writer-director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita,” “The Fifth Element”), in this highly absurd, highly entertaining science-fiction action romp that may require your suspension of belief – just a little bit – to truly appreciate how much fun the film can be.

Lucy, a grad student in Taipei, just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, when her scumbag boyfriend of only a week, Richard (Pilou Asbaek, “A Hijacking”), decides to handcuff her to a briefcase and force her to deliver its mysterious contents to a Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi, “Oldboy,” “I Saw The Devil”). Unfortunately for him, Richard was not aware of the circumstances required for this particular deal to go down, and he meets a rather gruesome end in Jang’s hotel room.

Now afraid for her life and chained to said suitcase, Lucy tries to communicate her circumstances in hopes of a sympathetic ear, but she soon finds out Mr. Jang’s sinister ways and is forced to become a drug mule for what’s within it: a newly synthesized drug, CPH4, a concentrated dose of a hormone produced by pregnant women to help develop the fetus.

After waking up with the blue substance sewn into her stomach – at the very least, a surefire way to get through airport security – Lucy finds herself in a prison-like cell, fighting off predators. One of her captors takes a whack at her stomach, causing the bag to break open and seep into her bloodstream. The drug begins taking effect almost immediately, and she begins to rapidly unlock unused portions of her brain until she eventually reaches 100 percent.

All of this action is effortlessly intercut with Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) giving a lecture on his theories as to what could be achieved if a human were to access larger portions of the brain, including the abilities to manipulate matter and time, adding some much needed exposition to the brisk 89-minute film without bogging down its fast-paced nature.

This concept may seem a overly familiar, being utilized most recently in 2011’s “Limitless,” in which a struggling writer (Bradley Cooper) decides to take an experimental drug to unlock 100 percent of his brain – but “Lucy” is no rehash of that, even after the use of similar time-lapse photography at the beginning of both films. “Lucy” goes in a completely different direction.

With her newly acquired gifts, Lucy shifts between using her brain to pass on her knowledge and unlock the mysteries of the universe, as well as get her revenge on the mob responsible for doing this too her.

If this all sounds a bit too ridiculous, that’s because it is, and as the movie progresses and Lucy goes from accessing 20, to 30, to 40 percent of her brain and so on, the movie gets even more bizarre.

“Lucy” treads B-movie territory, but that’s part of its charm and why it mostly works.

Taking it too seriously would only hinder any possible enjoyment of the film, which never takes itself too seriously and is well aware of its undeniable silliness.

As far as summer blockbusters go, shutting your brain off for a brief hour and a half for Luc Besson’s highly stylized offering is a refreshing alternative to some of the much dumber, much duller films released each weekend.