Lucy can see your cell phone conversations and strum them like a harp, because she uses more of her brain than you do.
  • Lucy can see your cell phone conversations and strum them like a harp.

The trailers for Lucy indicate fairly straightforward superhero fare: Scarlett Johansson is forced into service as an unwilling drug mule for an evil mobster, but the bag of super-drugs she's carrying in her stomach bursts open, imbuing upon her a host of movie superpowers: telekinesis, mind control, the ability to control computers for some weird reason. Morgan Freeman, in his role as Official Blockbuster Exposition Machine, informs us that Lucy's powers stem from the fact that average humans only use 10 percent of their brain capacity, but the drug—CPH4, a synthesized pregnancy hormone—is causing Lucy to approach 100 percent, at which point even Freeman doesn't know what will happen. (That 10 percent thing is not true, but if you're the sort of wet blanket who picks movie science apart with dogged determination, you should probably get a restraining order against Lucy, because it's only going to cause you indigestion.) Lucy sounds like a bunch of movies mashed together, not least of which the generic Bradley Cooper genius-drug flick Limitless from a few years ago.

But Lucy powers through the premise of a more generic movie in its first twenty minutes, and then it spends the rest of its runtime being delightfully weird. Part of the film's appeal is that it's written and directed by Luc Besson, he of the smarmy eurotrash action thrillers, and so he's willing to drag the film into a murky, R-rated morality that an American blockbuster simply wouldn't be willing to go. Lucy pretty much immediately stops being a human being as soon as she gains her powers; she shoots a couple of innocent people for getting in her way, and she spends a lot of time saying things like "I'm colonizing my own brain" in an unemotional tone. Johansson enjoys the hell out of the cheesy script and Besson's fierce push into weirdness. Lucy isn't your typical girl-power action-movie role; she's something much weirder, and Johansson plays her as a greatest-hits-compilation synthesis of her last three movie roles, in Her, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Under the Skin.

Those expecting a traditional shoot-em-up climax for Lucy will leave disappointed. Those people should probably have been warned off by the movie's early propensity for bizarre quick-edit digressions. One scene compares Lucy's descent into danger by cutting away from the action to footage of a gazelle being hunted by a lion and a mouse sniffing at a trap. It's so on-the-nose that it's fun. We also bear witness to the discovery of fire and a few scenes featuring Lucy, the skeleton discovered by an archaeological expedition in 1975. This is a movie in love with hearing itself talk, offering up a bunch of pseudo-scientific monologues about pain and time and math, but you don't mind laughing along with all the juicy pulp, just because it's totally committed to its own impossibly dumb pursuit of intelligence.