Scarlett Johansson turns lethal in lackluster Lucy

Lucy, an exceedingly minor work by Luc Besson, is a feeble attempt to recapture the magic of his 1990 global smash Le Femme Nikita. The new film is predictably sleek and stylized, but it’s also empty-headed and incredibly silly.

In the title role, Scarlett Johansson plays an American in Taipei (a student, it seems) who is summarily captured and dosed – never mind the circumstances, it hardly matters – with a synthetic drug that allows her to access 100 percent of her cerebral capacity, whereas most humans evidently only use about 10 percent. (In the case of this movie, significantly less it seems.)

Not only does Lucy become faster and smarter, she immediately becomes a dead shot and an expert in automatic weapons, as well as developing telekinetic powers and even the ability to heal her own wounds. Given the last ability, it’s a wonder why Choi Min Sik – as the sort of pokerfaced Asian crime boss who washes blood off his hands with bottled Evian while ignoring the bloodstains on his sleeves – continues to throw more men and more firepower in her path, when it’s very quickly clear that she’s essentially indestructible.

Johansson, looking lovely even when sporting facial contusions, gives a robotic, glassy-eyed performance akin to a female Terminator. At least she got to visit Taiwan and Paris. So, at least to Paris, did Morgan Freeman, once again called upon to deliver psuedoscientific mumbo-jumbo with authority and gravitas – something he just did in Transcendence earlier this year. Freeman’s always working it, but even he seems a little impatient, perhaps to resume sight-seeing. Amr Waked provides nominal romantic interest as a Parisian cop along for the ride with Lucy.

The film’s flimsy, underdeveloped script indicates that Besson the screenwriter figured he could pull a fast one thanks to Besson the director’s patented flashy style. (Go figure.) Occasionally Besson will toss in stock footage to accentuate what’s being talked about onscreen, as if the whole thing was a joke. Maybe it is, but this time the joke’s on the audience. !

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