Movies From Swank: Lucy

Will SorgEntertainment Columnist

Gustavus’ free streaming service Swank has a lot of incredible movies in its library. Lucy is not one of them. Lucy is a 2014 science fiction action film that believes with its entire soul that it is a good movie. Written and directed by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, and Korean superstar Choi Min-Sik, Lucy is a baffling film that only becomes more ridiculous as the thankfully-brief runtime comes to a close. 

Lucy Miller, an American in Taipei, is forced by her boyfriend of one week to deliver a briefcase to a Korean crime boss named Mr. Jang. After her boyfriend is murdered and she is kidnapped, Lucy is forced into smuggling a powerful new drug. She accidentally ingests the drug and as a result the capacity of her brain increases. This is perhaps what the film is most well known for– its ridiculous continuation of the misconception that human beings only use 10% of their brain. The script was written over the course of ten years and while modern understanding of the brain changed in that time, it is clear that Besson decided to stick with the ridiculous concept rather than rewrite it to make more sense. Whether this was out of laziness or confidence that people wouldn’t find the idea that using more of your brain gives you superpowers insane, we can never know for sure, but it certainly makes for a ludicrous experience. 

We spend a good chunk of the movie being endlessly told how Lucy’s evolving brain gives her so many enhanced abilities, like a perfect memory, perfect fighting skills, telekinesis, and the ability to type on two laptops at the same time. However, there is never any real chance for the audience to comprehend or care about why this is happening. Yes, we hear Morgan Freeman lecture about brains, but there is not even an attempt to explain why increasing brain utilization can allow someone to manipulate matter and become a godlike being. The premise feels woefully underdeveloped and the outdated concept makes the whole thing even harder to sell to an audience.

To me this is impossible to take seriously, which is why it is thankfully unintentionally hilarious. Lucy as a character almost immediately shifts from helpless damsel to unfeeling god in the span of about a half an hour. From then on it is basically a slapstick routine as the audience waits to see what oddly evil act she commits next. There are so many moments where we watch as Johhanson’s character coldly does the most unambiguously horrible thing she could do in the moment and it very quickly becomes a strange kind of dark comedy. The dialogue is also as silly as possible. Pseudo-intellectual platitudes populate the film like roaches at a trash heap, and Johansson’s emotionless delivery makes every line she says sound like she said it by accident, as if the actress messed up the line and they decided to just roll with it. 

Competent visual effects and three incredible actors aside, the film reads as one baffling decision after another. There is a clear attempt at making something high-concept, as the film often intercuts scenes with documentary footage of nature and animals. However, attempts at becoming some kind of arthouse cult classic are immediately undercut by the clear ineptitude of the filmmakers. It is embarrassing, but you can’t help but continue watching to see what bizarre choice will be made next.