Movie review: Lucy's a brainy thriller with lots of fun

Cinema still: Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson. -- PHOTO: UIP
Cinema still: Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson. -- PHOTO: UIP

Review Sci-fi action

LUCY (NC16)

90 minutes/Opens tomorrow/***1/2

The story: Tricked into making a dodgy transaction, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) ends up as a drug mule for the vicious Jang (Choi Min Sik). An accidental overdose does not kill her, but instead opens up the potential of Lucy's brain. She gets in touch with Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) to figure out what to do with her newfound powers and ropes in cop Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) to deal with Jang.

Scientists say we use only 10 per cent of our brains. So what happens if the full potential of the mind can be unleashed?

The tantalising scenario was previously explored in Limitless (2011), which starred Bradley Cooper, but without much imagination and exposing many loopholes.

Writer-director Luc Besson (Nikita, 1990) takes the same idea and just runs with it. It starts out as a globalised crime thriller as Lucy (Johansson), an American girl in Taipei, is forced to be a drug mule for the terrifying Korean crime lord Jang (an effective Choi from Oldboy, 2003).

Then the fun kicks in when Lucy gradually turns into super Lucy and starts turning the tables on her tormentors.

On one level, the film is an action-packed and fast-paced zinger as it zips about Taipei and Europe.

There are other drug mules to track down and showdowns with the Korean baddies to be staged.

Throughout it all, Johansson is a cool and calm presence.

The macho police cop (Egyptian actor Waked, Syriana, 2005) is reduced to being Lucy's sidekick in a playful reversal of gender roles.

At the same time, the film also follows up on that intriguing mind- blowing scenario.

As a potent drug sweeps into her body, Lucy is transformed. She is able to manipulate her own body at a cellular level, control other people and even read the world as a complex matrix of information.

While Cooper ignited howls of laughter when he attempted to speak Mandarin in Limitless in order to demonstrate his faculty for languages, the same point is made more smartly here.

When Lucy sees a hospital sign in Chinese, her brain automatically translates it into English.

Besson also slips in some metaphysical dialogue amid the action, setting up a nice contrast between the two crime-busters.

As Lucy and Pierre hurtle through Paris in a crazy car ride, he says "Better late than dead", to which she responds, "We never really die".

Meanwhile, a number flashes on screen from time to time, showing the percentage of Lucy's brain that has been activated.

Ultimately, what does Lucy do with all that power and knowledge? And what happens when 100 per cent is reached? If it is reached?

Whatever you make of the answers, at least no one can accuse Besson of having a limited imagination.

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