The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Now that I've seen Lucy, I have a pretty good idea of what it would be like to get really wasted on LSD and attend a college-level philosophy class. This is a movie that combines complex ideas about time, space, and mind power with trippy, occasionally hallucinogenic visuals. It's short (just 89 minutes), and the plot itself is paper-thin, but what a gloriously crazy ride it is.

Scarlett Johansson plays Lucy, an American student living in Taipei, Taiwan. After a guy she met in a nightclub sets her up, she is forced to act as a drug mule for an international kingpin named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). A powerful new synthetic drug is surgically implanted into her stomach. Some of it leaks out, though, and it has the miraculous effect of increasing the percentage of brain capacity that she can use. The more this ability develops, the more she can do, including control electronic equipment, read minds, alter her appearance, and move both objects and people. The question is, what will happen when her brain capacity reaches 100%? Lucy seeks help from a noted academic, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), while also seeking to take down Mr. Jang and his associates.

Lucy is the latest film by Luc Besson, the man who has written, directed, and/or produced such hyperkinetic action pictures as The Fifth Element, The Transporter, Le Femme Nikita, and Taken. This may be his most unusual work yet. Lucy is not just tongue-in-cheek. No, the tongue bursts out of the cheek, wraps all the way around the back of the head, and comes in through the opposite cheek. Besson throws in all kinds of wacky devices to tell this story. Sometimes he uses stock footage to illustrate a point. For instance, when Lucy is first set up to be foisted into Mr. Jang's operation, Besson intercuts her impending danger with film of a gazelle being stalked by a cheetah. Once Jang's men have her, we see the gazelle being snagged. At another point, the camera goes into Lucy's abdomen so we can see the drug entering her system, and there are several occasions where it whizzes around inside her brain.

The longer the story progresses, the more out-there it becomes, too. Lucy develops a variety of astonishing powers, some of which play with our notions of space and time. This allows for plenty of ridiculous-in-a-good-way action scenes, the best of which finds her levitating a group of armed assailants so they cannot harm her. The ending, meanwhile, is nothing less than a mind-bending fever dream. There's a go-for-broke spirit to Lucy that makes it continually entertaining to watch, even when it's not making much sense, which is most of the time.

Scarlett Johansson continues her career hot streak with this performance. How do you effectively play a woman with vastly increased brain power in what is an unapologetically absurd action flick? Johansson has the answer: you play her as a savant. Lucy is simultaneously absorbing information and befuddled about her own predicament. Believe it or not, I was reminded of Danny Pudi's phenomenal work as Abed on the show Community as I watched Johansson. Both actors invest their respective characters with a sense of I don't understand how my brain functions, but it's really working for me. This approach is perfect for Lucy because it allows Johansson to have credibility in the action scenes while still acting in a way that's commensurate with the movie's wacko tone.

Despite the philosophical themes, there's no real depth to Lucy. It's a mindless popcorn movie through and through. But it's a really fun mindless popcorn movie, one that throws so much stuff at you that it's impossible to guess where it will go next. High energy, wild ideas, and a perfectly pitched performance from Johansson sell it.

( out of four)

Lucy is rated PG-13 for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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