Lucy may not be the brainiest gal on the block. Still, she could tell that her new boyfriend was a problem. He was cute, but manipulative. No matter what he said or how cutely he said it, though, she wasn’t going to deliver that briefcase he kept pushing in her direction.
Of course, once he slapped the attached handcuff on her wrist, she no longer had a choice. Unless she wanted to spend her morning looking for a hacksaw, she was going to have to walk into an ominous-looking corporate building and deliver her attached package. The second she strolled through the big glass door and noticed a group of Asian thugs moving her way, however, the hacksaw hunt suddenly looked a lot more appealing. But by then it was too late.
In the resulting whirlwind, Lucy finds herself manhandled, snatched up and brought crying before a Taiwanese crime boss named Mr. Jang. He isn’t in a pleasant mood. And he certainly isn’t very patient with her sniveling and whining. Before you know it, the briefcase is opened, four bags of a blue powdered drug are revealed, and Lucy has a new job.
She didn’t ask for the job. In fact, she flatly stated that no matter what Jang did she wasn’t going to take it. Soon however, she’s unconscious. And when she wakes, she finds that she now has a bandaged bloody slit in her lower abdomen, a bag of drugs tucked away inside her and the job description “drug mule” hanging over her head.
Could this possibly get any worse?
Before she’s put on a plane, Lucy tries to ward off yet more unwanted attention, this time from one of her captors making crude sexual advances. When she tries, again, to say no, he beats her senseless.
And the bags of drugs in Lucy’s stomach ruptures.
Just like that, Lucy’s anything but a dimwitted dupe. Suddenly she understands … everything. And everything she’s capable of.
Because for the first time in her life, Lucy is the brainiest gal on the block. Maybe the whole planet, for that matter.
When Lucy first gains more awareness of herself thanks to the strange drug in her system, she calls her mother. Weeping, she talks of suddenly recalling all the love, patience and gentle care both her parents had given her—a childhood she had long since forgotten. She thanks them for their tender commitment and voices her love.
In a way, Lucy (the movie) could be interpreted as an allegory supporting the education and empowerment of women. Lucy (the girl) is an unaware, thoughtless, hard-partying victim in the beginning. It’s only when she increases her brain power that she realizes that none of that needs to be a part of her world any longer. (On the other hand, the smarter Lucy becomes, the more emotionless she becomes too—obviously not a good thing.)
Lucy accepts and advances the concepts of evolution. Its opening moments depict animals and ape-like hominids evolving. A scientist named Norman explains how evolution is particularly evident in the developing mental capacities of men and women, with it being suggested that we’ve only advanced to the point of utilizing 10% of our brains’ capabilities (an aging and clichéd myth that modern brain-scanning technology has long since dismissed). As Lucy taps into her dormant brain matter, she evolves into what the movie suggests is her superpowered potential—eventually morphing into something like an omniscient, matter-manipulating god.
We see Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” painting (the only direct onscreen reference to God), then see a time-traveling Lucy strike the same pose, reaching out her finger toward a crouching ape-woman in the distant past. Still traveling through time, Lucy also witnesses the happenstancial beginnings of the universe.
Professor Norman declares, “The only purpose of life is to pass on what we’ve learned.” And when someone worries about dying in a car crash, an enlightened Lucy assures him, “We never really die.”
One of Lucy’s captors, a tattooed and shirtless man, pulls at her T-shirt and sticks his hand down her top to grope her. Lucy, who’s exhausted and chained to a chair, slaps hin away. Later, she spreads her legs seductively (while wearing jeans) to entice a man toward her. He begins to unbluckle his belt. A friend talks about having sex (all weekend) with a guy. Lucy and two other women are seen in their bras. Several women wear formfitting dresses.
Mr. Jang is a man attuned to violence. When we first meet him, he’s spattered with blood after having just tortured two men (whose bloody corpses are still on the floor). We watch as he washes sticky remnants of his victims’ viscera off his hands and sleeves. Jang also shoots a man in the head, execution-style. We see him and his men in several guns-ablaze conflicts that involve pistols, automatic weapons and an RPG. Police and thugs alike are left bloodied and writhing in pain. A man’s blood is smeared across a window when he’s shot from behind.
Perhaps the most squirm-inducing violence is aimed at—and then delivered by—Lucy. She’s initially shoved and dragged about by her brutish male captives, then punched full in the face when she objects. After pushing away a sexual predator, she’s cruelly and repeatedly pummeled and kicked, which reopens her stitches and leaves her bloody and unconscious. The drug subsequently released into her bloodstream causes her to writhe in agony, convulsing up a wall and, strangely, onto the ceiling. She later gets shot in the shoulder, and we watch her probe the wound to retrieve the bullet.
Lucy drives two large knives into a foe’s hands, pinning him down while she forcibly pulls information from his mind. She pushes her fingers into a man’s abdomen to retrieve drugs. She drives against a heavy flow of one-way traffic in Paris, carelessly causing a score of car-flipping smash-ups. She charges into an operating room and shoots a patient—saying she perceived he was going to die anyway—to compel doctors to attend to her.
When Lucy begins withdrawing from her first dose of the drug, it causes her very substance to begin dissolving away. Her face melts and drips off her skull and her fingers dematerialize in a molecular mist. Elsewhere, we see a doctor snip open stitches on Lucy’s abdomen to pull out a big bag of drugs.
A background f-word and four or five s-words. One or two uses each of “d–n,” “h—” and “a–.” God’s name is misused a few times.
The powerful drug known as CPH-4 is said to be an artificially replicated version of the same hormone that a pregnant mother’s body manufactures in small amounts early in a fetus’s gestation. When we see a drug addict snort one or two tiny grains of the powdered stuff, it sends him into a spasm of pure mental exhilaration. Later, the substance leaks into Lucy’s system and we see the transforming impact it has on her internal organs.
Lucy must continue taking further doses of the drug in order to keep her physical substance intact and to maintain her steady march toward 100% use of her brain. At one point, all of the remaining powder is mixed into a liquid solution that Lucy takes intravenously via four separate lines.
Jang smokes, drinks hard liquor, and gives a glass of the same to Lucy, who chugs it. We see Lucy partying with friends while drinking heavily.
Lucy vomits after seeing a corpse.
How does a thinking person explain the astounding miracle of humankind’s consciousness—our ability to reason, adapt, learn and create—if that person rejects the idea of the God of creation? Well, the logical alternative, it seems, is to manufacture a nearly omniscient “god” of evolution.
That’s essentially what writer/director Luc Besson makes of his titular character. After an accidental drug overdose, this put-upon patsy unlocks all the untapped potential of her supercharged brain. And with each passing hour, Lucy’s superhuman powers expand, granting her access to the mysteries of the universe.
With creative flourish and a seasoned panache, Besson juggles big humanistic ideas while delivering equal measures of broad sci-fi make-believe and shoot-’em-up gangland melodrama. Think of it as a Flowers for Algernon meets Limitless meets La Femme Nakita kind of adventure. At times, it’s an interesting and immersive, if logically tortured, cinematic combo.
Of course, it doesn’t take much cranial horsepower to figure out that this pic also packs some big moviegoing problems—not the least of which is that whole evolutionary apologetics lesson it delivers. With bullet-to-the-head brutality, both literally and philosophically, Lucy may well leave viewers with a brain ache of their own.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.