As someone who has already played an emotionless alien earlier this year, there may be no better actress suited to the role of an all-knowing stoic than Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson's Lucy. Like most Besson films, Lucy takes place in an "exotic" location--Taipei (a location portrayed in a manner that fortifies Tao Lin's decision to write his most depressing novel with this city as the backdrop and title). For some reason, our eponymous heroine is living there and dating a douche bag drug runner named Richard (Pilou Asbæk) who handcuffs a suitcase to her hand when she refuses to go in place of him to drop it off to Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), a notorious drug lord.
Upon fearfully entering the hotel room to gain an audience with Mr. Jang, a group of his lackeys comes down to greet her by shooting Richard as he watches from outside and then taking her up to Jang's room by force. Panicked and uncertain, Lucy imagines the worst when she sees the carnage Jang has already inflicted based on the body pile in his hotel room. After a translator instructs Lucy to open the suitcase handcuffed to her wrist via phone, Jang is pleased to find that the contents are bags of synthetic CH4, commonly delivered to fetuses in pregnancy for growth and development, but only in very minimal doses. When tested on one of their random addicts on hold in the hotel room, his reaction is delirium and euphoria, quickly negated by Jang's impromptu decision to shoot him.
Jang's translator then tells Lucy that the cold-blooded killer has a job for her. When she says she doesn't want a job, she finds herself waking up in a hotel room with her stomach freshly stitched together after being cut open so that Jang's henchmen could insert a bag of CH4 into her stomach in order for her to smuggle it through airport security (though with them body scanners these days, I don't really see how that's possible). Somewhere along the way, Lucy ends up in a holding cell where her captors not only try to rape her, but also kick her in the stomach, causing the CH4 to rip open and spread throughout her body--which imbues her with superior knowledge of everything, hence the Limitless comparisons.
Interspersed throughout the story are lectures from esteemed professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), who argues that if a human could tap into even 20% of his or her brain's capacity, complete control over one's body could be achieved (even though I kind of already thought most people do have control over their body, which just goes to show that I'm only accessing 10% of my brain). The only other species capable of doing this is, unsurprisingly, dolphins.
What is surprising, however, is that instead of seeking vengeance upon Jang once she goes to the hospital and gets her stomach emptied of the CH4 bag, she merely stabs him in both hands and accesses his memory to see where the other drug mules have gone so she can get the rest of the product for herself. It's a very zen attitude, if you think about it. With her new mission being to collect the remaining three bags and use them on herself for Professor Norman's continued research, Lucy has found her purpose within the minimal amount of hours she has left to survive at the rate her brain is expanding.
At times, Lucy can veer on the somewhat trite side, for example, with parallels between Lucy and the first bipedal human, which scientists dubbed Lucy when the skeletal remains were discovered in 1974. Nonetheless, Besson has always been a seasoned writer-director when it comes to making his films both entertaining and thought-provoking--not to mention that his soundtrack choices never fail to impress, Damon Albarn being a case in point on this particular film.