Movie review: Want some philosophy with your action? You’ll love “Lucy”

From the July 24, 2014 edition

First off, let’s just get this out of the way. No, you do not only use 10 percent of our brains — with the possible exception of when you are watching a Michael Bay movie.

I hate the perpetuation of urban legends (use Snopes, people!), but I’m willing to forgive the false premise of “Lucy” because of its otherwise brainy blend of kick-ass action courtesy of director Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element,” “La Femme Nikita”).

“Life was given to us a billion years ago,” says the title character over images of man’s evolution. “What have we done with it?” After this brief philosophical pondering, Besson throws us into the plot headfirst. Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is coerced by her new boyfriend to deliver a briefcase to a fancy hotel.

The contents are a new, powerful drug, and an equally powerful drug lord named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi of the original “Oldboy”) is using Lucy and others as unwitting drug mules.

Lucy wakes up in a hotel room to find she’s had the drugs surgically implanted in her. When the package is burst in an assault, she absorbs the drug, which causes her to be able to use an increasing percentage of her brain. The end result is pretty much superpowers.

Besson’s philosophical tangents are actually thought-provoking musings on the very nature of existence, which admittedly isn’t what you expect from a summer action flick. And the action is slick, breakneck and furious. The question is whether these two tastes will taste great together to you.

I’ve really come around on recent Johansson performances, notably “Her,” but as Lucy’s brain becomes a supercomputer, she pulls from the same sort of emotional detachment she tapped into for “Under the Skin” (a deeply strange movie that I have among the year’s best).

As Lucy grows more powerful (“That’s telekinesis, Kyle.”), she dispenses with an endless parade of baddies “Matrix”-style.

The action and philosophy come to a head in an ending that may not be fulfilling for those just looking for and summer fix, but it was nice to use at least a little extra brain.

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures