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With: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pilou Asbæk, Analeigh Tipton
Written by: Luc Besson
Directed by: Luc Besson
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
Running Time: 90
Date: 07/24/2014

Lucy (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Runaway Brain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Luc Besson's Lucy continues a happy trend this summer. Rather than brain-dead battle movies (like Transformers: Age of Extinction), many sci-fi movies have achieved a balanced combination of thoughtful or clever ideas and exhilarating action, one feeding into the other.

Thus Lucy follows nicely in the footsteps of Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Snowpiercer, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Scarlett Johansson stars as the title character, an ordinary girl living in Taipei whose shady boyfriend ropes her into delivering a suitcase to a powerful gang lord, Mr. Jung (Choi Min-sik, from the original Oldboy).

She is overpowered and then used as a drug mule to transport an experimental new substance called CPH4 in her intestines.

But when the bag bursts, and she receives a massive dose, it somehow unlocks the untapped portions of her brain. She begins to see, hear, and feel everything around her, and before long she can even control matter.

She must obtain the rest of the drugs to keep herself alive, while consulting with brain specialist Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) to decide what to do next.

Director Besson is not exactly a critics' darling, but he is very good at his job. He clearly loves making movies, even if it's only a certain kind of movie. He is one of the few directors out there that can create a stylish frame, fill it with clear, kinetic, colorful action, and move it all at a brisk pace. (Lucy is a tight 90 minutes, far shorter than most other summer blockbusters.)

For that alone, Besson deserves comparison with Michael Mann, Brian De Palma, or Quentin Tarantino, even though his films rarely reach any profundity; he's content to remain in his pulpy, "B" movie realm.

Lucy is constantly playful and awestruck. Besson uses silly little documentary flashbacks to illustrate human history and to broaden the movie's scope. Yet he seems genuinely moved by the capability of humans to do good.

It's odd that Besson has made such a simple movie about being smart, but it works. Lucy makes intelligence alluring and exciting, rather than dry and snobbish.

He's also one of the few directors that creates active parts for women. Johansson is mesmerizing in Lucy, constantly searching and processing her character's input, and eventually making a complete transformation.

Scientists have already complained that the notion that humans only use 10% of their brain capacity is a fiction, but Lucy is also a fiction, so open up your minds and enjoy.

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