When he isn't making movies, I imagine director Luc Besson sitting alone and shabby in an all-night diner, arguing a deranged point with the salt shaker before heading out to wash windshields for tips. There's "out there" and there's Besson, whose latest wackadoodle Lucy makes as much sense as a caveman with a Zippo lighter. Which, of course, Besson includes.
The anachronism is part of Besson's so-crazy-it-might-work twist on his girl with a gun routine, adding bogus even for sci-fi lessons in anthropology, biology and other -ologies, CGI'd into confusion like some kick-butt Cosmos episode. (Or, since Morgan Freeman does most of the lecturing, like his Through the Wormhole TV series). It is crazy. It doesn't work.
Lucy would be fine without the pseudo-intellectualism, just Scarlett Johansson doing her faster pussycat thing with guns, knives and stunt doubles. The set-up is solid: an American woman in Taiwan handcuffed into delivering a briefcase to cold-blooded mobsters. She's forced to be a drug mule, carrying a surgically inserted stash of super hormones doubling as designer highs. Make a little revenge in order and you've got a movie.
Besson takes it farther, as expected, and for a while that's fun. Lucy gets brutally beaten, the package ruptures and she's flooded with the drug. Through some biological/primal process double-talked to death, Lucy begins using twice the 10 percent of brain capacity to which humans are erroneously thought to be limited.
Strange things happen, even for a Besson flick. At first it's standard mutant power stuff, mixed with deadeye marksmanship and killer intuition. Johansson slinks through the mayhem with sexy detachment, a deadpan angel of mayhem. At 40 percent the movie starts tipping off the rails, with Lucy absorbing the universe, vomiting beams of light, destined for antimatter omnipotence.
Inserted into the action is footage intended to tie all this futuristic hoohah into mankind's evolution and cognitive domination in spite of ourselves. Or something like that. Who knows? Some of the clips add heavy symbolism — a mouse near a trap then panthers chasing prey while Lucy's pursued — and some are downright silly, like a phony-looking prehistoric ape in a pivotal role, and Besson's lava lamp vision of the universe's secrets.
The junk in Lucy doesn't entirely eclipse the moments when weird is fun: Johansson before her transformation, panicked by the grisly doings of drug ring leader Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), who's a piece of work himself; the cartel's crazed quality control expert and; in a Razzies clip waiting to happen for Johansson, Lucy's farewell phone call to Mom, thanking her for the breast milk. Only Besson can make up this stuff.
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.