Scarlett Johansson is a superstar. She’s at a point in her career where she can take on any project and somehow make it a success. This year alone she’s starred in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chef and Under the Skin, a wide assortment of films that all accompany a different genre. She’s such a big star that she’s able to take on riskier projects that she may not have been able to tackle earlier in her career. Lucy has Johansson starring in a film that takes a lot of risks, but ends up with a mixed success. It’s a film that feels like a jumbled mess in terms of themes and ideas, but it also has a unique style that makes it intriguing and entertaining throughout. In many regards, it’s a failure, but at least it’s an ambitious failure. I would much rather watch a film that attempts to do something risky, than a film that coasts by without trying anything new.

After her new boyfriend tricks her into delivering a package to a powerful drug lord named Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik), Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is captured by Jang’s group of mercenaries and held prisoner. She soon discovers that the package she was delivering was full of a new, synthetic drug called CPH4. While she’s knocked unconscious, they place a packet of the drug inside her abdomen, allowing her to easily smuggle the drug across international borders. Before she is able to carry the drugs to another country, she is assaulted by one of her captives, which splits open the bag inside her. Large amounts of the drug are absorbed into her bloodstream and she quickly discovers that this gives her access to untapped areas of the brain. Not only does this make her incredibly intelligent, it gives her a unique set of abilities that may allow her to enact revenge on Jang and his henchmen.

Written and directed by Luc Beeson, Lucy has a unique style that works well in its Taiwan setting. Action sequences are interesting, not only because of Lucy’s unbelievable set of skills, but because these scenes are actually shot well and look great. The film doesn’t take any time getting started; within the first five minutes, we’re already shown several dead bodies and Lucy’s life is in danger. Because of this, we never get a feeling of who Lucy was before this happened. Credit then must go to Johansson for actually allowing us to care about her character when we know little to nothing about her. It’s only in the second half of the movie where she grows too powerful and the film loses touch with reality. When she becomes virtually unstoppable, it’s hard to care about what happens.

Beeson is tossing around a lot of themes throughout the film and, while they seem ambitious, they never come together in a conclusive whole. For instance, the first twenty minutes of the movie feature a number of montages, intercutting footage of animals with footage of humans. When Lucy is first picked up by Jang’s henchmen, the scene is interrupted by several shots of a lion stalking its prey. Another montage shows several different animals reproducing, before ending with two humans having sex in a car. These sequences seem to suggest that we’re no different than animals, but I can’t seem to figure out what that has to do with the overall film. The ending of the film, which has a character flashing back through many different periods in history, is even stranger and doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of the film.

But even if these themes end up being failures, it’s refreshing to see them exist in a big budget summer blockbuster. I can see a lot of people hating Lucy, citing its unique style and strange ideas as a reason. For me, I can clearly see that the film didn’t achieve what Beeson was attempting. Even so, I was intrigued by everything that was thrown onto the film and, at a brisk 89 minutes, it doesn’t even come close to overstaying its welcome. It might just be the best failure you’re likely to see all summer.

Lucy receives 2.5/4

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