Intelligence can be a Godsend. It can also be a pain in the ass, especially when you're addicted to it. In Limitless, Bradley Cooper discovers a pill that makes him the smartest man on the planet - and gets him into loads of trouble.
Russian mobsters. Devious financial executives. Angry girlfriends. Certain death from prolonged use. These are all symptoms of the magical pill and plot elements director Neil Burger and screenwriter Leslie Dixon stir together in the stew that is Limitless.
Limitless is a mildly tasty stew. Good, but not great. There are plenty of ingredients to keep things interesting, but the film lacks the right balance of those ingredients. The result: an entertaining if not ultimately under-serving thriller that never realizes its full potential.
Cooper, who rocketed to fame with The Hangover, does a fine job as Eddie Morra, the film's protagonist. In The Hangover, Cooper showed he can simultaneously be cocky yet relatable, and does so again here. Eddie is an extremely flawed individual, but Cooper manages to develop a likeable enough character in him nonetheless.
Extremely underutilized, however, are Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish. De Niro is portrayed in the trailers as the primary antagonist, but in reality he is neither a significant character nor the bad guy. The main purpose for his involvement appears to be his star power.
As for Cornish, she isn't given much to do other than a single, rather silly chase sequence. Once that's over, her character is practically dropped from the rest of the movie.
Limitless has plenty of other problems other than just dropped characters. It has several plot holes of varying magnitude, most notably the question of how Cooper can sustain himself for months on the daily pills - given his initially limited supply. Apparently, the pills are so smart they can reproduce themselves.
The biggest issue, however, is that Dixon - working off the novel by Alan Glynn - doesn't take full advantage of the premise at hand. With all of the moving parts she puts into motion, the climax is surprisingly staggered and straightforward. I was expecting to see Eddie use his newfound intellect to establish a complicated scheme to overcome all his challenges at once; instead, the movie ends on a rather simple note, without Eddie ever using his skills to help him get out of his situation.
Nevertheless, Limitless is a fun movie that benefits from a clever (if implausible) premise and a fast pace. Director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) utilizes some interesting visual effects, elevating the material. The picture is consistently entertaining.
Limitless is one of those movies where audiences who can't get past glaring plot holes will struggle to enjoy it. On the other hand, audiences who are capable of accepting some absurdity in exchange for mindless entertainment are clearly in the target demographic. Which category do you fall into?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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