Slick filmmaking can't make up for this thriller’s unnecessarily pessimistic take on humanity.
There are not a lot of good things to say about the human race after seeing a film like Limitless. This is not because it’s a terrible movie — on the contrary, for the most part it’s a slick, engaging, roller coaster of a film. Rather, it’s because the film unabashedly accepts as fact one basic tenet of mankind: given unlimited power, man will use that power to make a lot of money and then get laid. Plenty of other movies are predicated on the same notion, but few embrace it with so much passion and with so little moral contemplation.
Based on a novel by Alan Glynn, Limitless tells the story of a struggling writer, Eddie Morra (Cooper), whose life is in a state of perpetual decline. He then runs into his ex–wife’s brother, Vernon, a drug dealer with a miraculous cure–all pill called NZT, a sort of high–powered Adderall. After taking one dose, Eddie’s life is back on track and naturally he wants more of the super–drug. However, when he tracks down Vernon and finds the drug–dealer with a hole blown through his head (a sight that would raise red flags for most), Eddie bolts out of Vernon’s apartment with his stash of NZT.
The film speeds along as Eddie quickly finishes a book, makes millions trading stocks, becomes best buddies with the head of a super–powerful energy corporation (De Niro, once again phoning in a performance) and wins back the affections of his ex–girlfriend (Cornish). Everything seems hunky–dory until Eddie develops some pretty inconvenient medical side–effects and thugs show up to hound him about the missing pills.
From here the plot becomes convoluted and messy as Eddie improbably works his way out of one dicey situation after another. Fitting with the film’s frenetic pace and the mind–set of its protagonist, director Neil Burger tries his best to keep the whole thing engrossing, employing more than a few visual tricks and embellishments along the way (a stand–out being the impossibly blue color Eddie’s eyes turn whenever he’s on NZT). But the technical wizardry only goes so far, and upon reaching the bizarre conclusion one can’t help but feel exasperated by a film that spends too much time making greed look sexy and not enough time reflecting on whether greed should really be sexy in the first place.
Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish
Rated PG–13, 105 min.