I haven’t gone into a movie not knowing what to expect in a good long time, but Limitless had me stumped. Having not read the book it was based on, The Dark Fields, and gleaning on a mixed sense of what would occur in the film from trailers I wasn’t sure if I was headed into something akin to a techno-thriller Requiem for a Dream or an drug covered The Fugitive. Turns out I got neither.
What Limitless is, despite it being about drugs and violence, is a little bit of fun. For lack of a better word its an action thriller with some weird cheek to it. And thanks to this the fact that its parts don’t really add up to a cohesive whole is far easier to overlook.
Limitless might have one of the most plothole ridden stories I have ever seen on the silver screen. Forget the old cliche of driving a truck through one of these plotholes, they’re so big that you wouldn’t even realize you were driving through something in the first place. The idea is there is this designer drug that lets you use 100 percent of your brain and thus makes you super smart and talented at everything. Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a lazy bum of an author who randomly bumps into his drug dealing ex-brother-in-law. His brother-in-law gives him one pill and Eddie is hooked. Lucky for him his brother-in-law gets shot and killed and he gets his massive stash. Soon he’s finished his novel and starts to become a billionaire by working the stock market better than anyone else. This draw the attention of Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) who hires him to run a merger his company is doing. Unfortunately the drugs have some side effects like blacking out and murdering someone and then eventually dying yourself.
The plot starts to unravel almost from the get go as the idea of this designer drug which makes you super smart not being used by every person in the world and flooding the streets seems insanely ridiculous. As the plot progresses it just gets odder and odder that Eddie and a handful of other people are the only ones using it and that Eddie himself is randomly the only one really doing well when using it. Will Eddie survive? What happens when he runs out? These are questions you almost stop caring about since the absurdity of the entire situation is so unbelievable.
But here is where the film’s cleverness comes in. Coopers arrogant performance is imbued with a bit of humor that makes all the inconsistency pool and roll away like water on a duck’s feathers. It’s just plain fun to watch him be an arrogant dick who knows everything because deep down you know it is exactly what you’d do if you had the power the drugs gave you. Thankfully, the move doesn’t really admonish him about it but enjoys his top-of-the-world antics. You get caught up enough in watching Eddie be a badass (he even knows kung-fu) that the fact that the story is only held together by some steadily tearing string kind of falls into the background.
Neil Burger’s direction on the film also helps in a big way. Eddie’s drug induced trips into super intelligence are incredibly creative. The world lights up and seems to come alive. At one point words fall from the ceiling as Eddie writes, at another an amazingly cool camera trick is used to make it look like your moving forward into the background of a photograph. It’s an impeccable replication of what one might suppose limitlessness would feel like and the fun of watching Cooper’s performance coupled with Bruger’s stylized directing puts even the out of place ending firmly into a comfortable pocket of enjoyability.
As for the rest of the cast, they’re basically there to let Bradley Cooper chew them up and spit them out. This is practically a one man movie, but it works that way. In fact the only time you might start not wanting Cooper to succeed and being an insanely successful jackass is during some of the film’s more violent moments. it does get pretty bloody at points (even a little disgusting at one point), but it all adds to the hyperkinetic feel of the entire film. The violence and action only adding another layer to the ever growing entertainment you get from the film.
If you’re interested in seeing something that makes sense and aren’t easily swayed by flashy directing and charming actors I’d steer so far clear of this film that you forget about it entirely. In fact reading this review might have put you in a coma so I’m sorry if that happened. But if you’re like me and can be easily swayed by shiny objects and pretty faces then Limitless is nothing but enjoyable.
As a last note, the wait and rent it tag on this review should not be construed as an insult, but simply states that you won’t lose much by seeing it on a smaller screen.