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Scarlett Johansson is Lucy

Scarlett Johansson is Lucy

“LUCY”  My rating: B- (Opening wide on July 25)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

We’ve been repeatedly told that  human beings coast by using only 10 percent of our brainpower.

What happens when we kick that statistic up to 20 percent, 50 percent — even 100 percent — is illustrated in “Lucy,”  director Luc Besson’s giddy, goofy and slickly made sci-fi thriller.

Our titular heroine (Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman studying in Taiwan — though she apparently spends more time partying than cracking books. In the film’s opening moments she is coerced by a former boyfriend into delivering a

Min-sik Choi

Min-sik Choi

briefcase to a high-rise office building. There she finds herself in the clutches of a venal gangster, Jang (Min-sik Choi, the scary/compelling star of “Old Boy” and “I Saw the Devil”), who has a plan to use Lucy and three other kidnapped individuals to smuggle a new superdrug into Europe and the U.S.

The ghastly plan calls for large plastic pouches of the drug CPH-4 to be sewn into the  abdomens of the unwilling mules.  Failure to complete the mission will mean reprisals against the couriers’ families.

Before she can board a plane, though, the bag in Lucy’s tummy ruptures, flooding her system with the potent pharmaceutical and kicking her brain into overdrive.  Not only are her thinking processes given a jump start, but she gains superhuman hand-eye coordination, X-ray vision (a tree comes alive with flowing, glowing dots of energy) and, eventually, control of time and space.

“I feel everything.” she says. “Space, air, vibrations, people…I can feel gravity, the rotation of the Earth.”

All this is presented in a breathless visual style that feels not unlike the mind-blowing head journey that concluded Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” — although Besson delivers his trip at Mach speed.  Creative visual effects depict the changes in Lucy’s body at the cellular level — and in a couple of gloriously oddball sequences we meet a hairy man-ape in the Pleistocene.  Besson also likes to drop in snippets of cheetahs hunting gazelles to suggest that Lucy is now the top predator in her world.

 

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