EW Staff
July 25, 2014 AT 08:23 PM EDT

Luc Besson loves his lady warriors. Beginning with the original La Femme Nikita, and then in action movies like The Professional, The Fifth Element, and The Messenger, he’s introduced his own brand of memorable action heroines. Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy might be the most hardcore of the bunch. She goes from party girl to super-evolved sorceress when the experimental drug an Asian gangster has smuggled in her body spills into her bloodstream, raising her brain activity to 100 percent capacity. “Lucy is a thinly drawn character, just someone who needs to survive,” writes EW‘s Jeff Labrecque. “But Johansson vividly conveys the initial terror of her dire circumstances before shifting into the calculating, almost robotic mode of an alien being flicking away mere mortals.”

Only one person might be able to help Lucy before she’s fried by the drug’s intellectual fuse. No, not God, but close: Morgan Freeman. The Oscar-winning actor plays the world’s top neuroscientist, and even if Lucy’s mushrooming intelligence dwarfs his own, he at least will be able to help audiences understand just what the heck is going on onscreen.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below.

Jeff Labrecque (Entertainment Weekly)

“On paper, Lucy is nothing more than a standard Milla Jovovich action movie, but Besson amps it up by going way past the recommended dosage of cinematic insanity. The whiplash imagery and frenetic editing give the audience a contact high of sorts—was that a freakin’ dinosaur?—transforming what should be ridiculous into genuine bizarro excitement.”

Wesley Morris (Grantland)

“Much of the reason the opening scenes are so good has to do with a loose, breezy Johansson’s dominating performance. Hearing that voice come from that face, seeing her playing a person, revved me up. But it doesn’t take long for the light in Johansson’s eyes to dim and an action film to take her over.”

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (The AV Club)

“The sheer weirdness of Lucy’s imagery … prevents it from registering as run-of-the-mill summertime ‘dumb fun.’ It comes across, instead, as a directorial flight of fancy, an imaginatively goofy take on an already goofy idea, exaggerated by Besson’s blunt style and an uncommonly fast pace.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

“As a filmmaker, Besson is as audacious as he is shallow. … Toward the end, as Lucy amasses further powers and things with tentacles start happening, the movie resembles ’80s Cronenberg (good) and ’80s De Palma (not so good), with a chunk of late-’60s Kubrick tossed in to keep the stoners guessing.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)

Lucy hangs together, not only through sheer velocity, but from the unmistakable sense that this is no cynical product. It’s an honest expression of the filmmaker’s mind—his prurience, his paranoia, his grandiosity and his aspiration. Besson is one of those lucky artists whose genuine impulses are fantastically commercial.”

Eric Kohn (IndieWire)

“There’s never any question as to the inherent silliness, but Besson makes it endearing and unexpected anyway, delivering an unapologetically stupid antidote to stupid movies that don’t even bother to try something different. … It’s the kind of freewheeling mess of a movie you wish studios would try out more often.”

Dana Stevens (Slate) ▼

“You could imagine a fascinating version of this film with Lucy as a troubled antihero, someone struggling with the implications of her new powers. Instead, for most of the film, she’s a powerful, selfish automaton, motivated principally by the need to locate and secure an ongoing supply of the drug she needs to stay superstrong.”

Liam Lacey (Toronto Globe and Mail)

“To really enjoy Lucy, the latest logic-free thriller from Besson, the French maestro of mayhem, you should probably use only one or two per cent of your brain, the parts that enjoy flashing lights, loud noises, and the animal-attack videos that keep popping up during the movie.”

Justin Chang (Variety)

“Johansson has the unusually difficult job here of subtly conveying her character’s observations, reactions and eventual epiphanies in a mostly deadpan, flattened-out register that becomes only more subdued as the film progresses. Somehow, she succeeds beyond all reason.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times)

“Mr. Freeman may have taken a break from playing God, but his character is another gloss on his familiar role as the resident kindly father figure who, until the story goes haywire, shepherds the younger co-star and the audience both.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times) ▼

“When she tries to portray Lucy as an extra-human entity losing her capacity to feel emotion, it might have helped if she weren’t clad in a clingy, see-through T-shirt with a black lace bra underneath. The result is more Fembot than robot. The Razzies await.


Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 60

Rotten Tomatoes: 61 percent

Rated: R

Length: 89 Minutes

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi

Directed by Luc Besson

Distributor: Universal

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