Action/Sci-Fi, 89 Minutes, 2014
I told you, Hollywood, all the way back in 2011, when I saw “Limitless” [my review]: stop saying that we only use 10% of our brains! I’m warning you! It was wrong and stupid then and it’s wrong and stupid now. Now one of my favorite directors, Luc Besson [IMDB], goes and bases an entire movie on it.
I forgave “Limitless” because it was just a throwaway line, almost metaphorical. There, also, the effects of “unlocking the rest” were interesting, but reasonable: faster processing, recognizing interconnections – that kind of thing. Here the idea is the central pillar to the story; to the extent that we get an onscreen “brain percentage” counter throughout the film. They use ridiculously specific numbers like “28%” activated. Oh, and using more of your brain? It gives you straight-up magic powers.
You’ll be able to control computers, animals and people with your mind, change your appearance in seconds, listen in on phone calls by seeing radio waves. give people nosebleeds and type really fast. You’ll also, like, disintegrate yourself or something. You’ll probably be able to pull rabbits out of hats (or hats out of rabbits) as well, but our heroine, Lucy (Scarlet Johanson [IMDB]), never actually does that.
She gets into the whole mess when she’s roped into muling a weird new drug and accidentally overdoes on it. Her “cerebral capacity” begins to grow and her lifespan drops inversely. She must collect and consume more of the drug to expand her knowledge and extend her life. This doesn’t make her any friends among the Korean drug cartel that produces it.
Morgan Freeman [IMDB] also says a lot of stupid things about the brain.
Forgiving the science (and I’ll be clear: I’m not), there are still problems. There’s an odd, sporadic use of animal stock footage that seems a poorly considered afterthought. The end sputters wildly out in a wanna-be-Kubrickian montage that feels more like a computer graphics demonstration reel rather than poetry.
Skin-deep it’s a decent flick. There’s some neat effects and some decent action sequences. Johanson layers her performance and sells it well even if the material doesn’t deserve it. Morgan Freeman is spouting nonsense, but hell, it is Morgan Freeman. For that reason alone you’ll be tempted to believe it.
Had it just aimed for whiz-bang fun – with a tidy little moral worked in, of course – it may have been more successful. The problem is it’s trying to be science-fiction-with-a-message. On that level it just doesn’t work. Starting, as it does, from such an ignorant premise it really can’t work on that level.