Scarlett Johansson has always seemed more human than human, her round lips and hips signaling something primordial to us cavemen huddled in the dark of the movie theater. How odd then that her last three films have reduced her to a robotic destroyer of men: as an operating system in Her, a man-eating alien in Under the Skin, and now Lucy, in which an overdose of CPH4 — the chemical that develops embryos in the womb — turns her into a blank-eyed assassin with 100 percent mental control over her brain, as opposed to the 10 percent that merely allows us mortals to solve Rubik’s Cubes and blast astronauts into space.
Director Luc Besson must think the audience is operating with even fewer synapses. Here, his style is slick but hand-holdingly literal. In the opening when Lucy’s boyfriend-of-the-week (Pilou Asbæk) forces her to deliver a briefcase to a Taiwanese gangster (Min-sik Choi), Besson edits in a shot of a mouse in a trap. When that gangster sews drugs in her stomach, he splices in a cheetah snapping the neck of a gazelle.
Later, as the newly bionic Lucy seeks vengeance, Besson even tries to convince us she’s a strong female character, which to the majority of male action directors simply means a sexy, silent badass. The real females in the audience may wonder why a genius would limp across a multi-continental gunfight in five-inch Louboutins. (Hey smarty-pants, wear sneakers.)
There’s enough mumbo jumbo about space and time and cellular division to allow Lucy to feign depth, but what lingers is Besson’s regressive belief that even the most intelligent woman on earth can’t figure out how to get her way without a miniskirt and a gun.