film review: LIMITLESS

Directed by Neil Burger
Written by Leslie Dixon
Cinematography by Jo Willems
Edited by Tracy Adams & Naomi Geraghty
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Johnny Whitworth, Anna Friel & Andrew Howard
Relativity Media. 2011. USA

If “Limitless” occasionally suffers from delusions of grandeur, it also has enough sense not to take itself too seriously. Like a hovercraft, the movie never touches down, instead it glides along nicely enough, providing a smooth and swift entertainment for its audience.

Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”) plays Eddie Maura, a failed writer not prone to either shaving or tucking in his shirt. On his way home after being dumped by his fetching girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), Eddie runs into Vernon, his ex-wife’s shady brother (Johnny Whitworth).  A former drug dealer and who now supposedly works in sales for Big Pharma, Vernon wants to help Eddie get his life back on track and so convinces him to try NZT, a new drug that is about to hit the market.  For $800 a pop this drug allows its user to tap 100% of their brain. Even though the first pill was on the house, the cost is negligible considering it’s basically a ticket to fortune and power.  NZT allows your brain to access every bit of information to which it’s ever been exposed and can also soak up new information like a sponge. But like crack, NZT is also highly addictive and one needs to take it regularly in order to keep being so brilliant. And then there are those nasty side effects.

Through some convenient turn of events, Eddie comes into a mother lode of stashes.  This allows him to quickly toss off the book he owes his publisher as well as to enjoy other benefits of being the smartest man on Earth.  But being ramped up on NZT, the desire to keep moving forward is an insatiable one. With a cash infusion from an unsavory Russian lender (Andrew Howard) Eddie quickly makes his way to the top of the corporate food chain.  Once there he quickly gets an audience with financial tycoon, Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro). Van Loon is on the cusp of setting up an enormous deal with another titan. The walls, however, are closing in on Eddie despite or because of his success—; the Russian wants his money back, a police detective is snooping around, and those are just the two he can identify.

Because there are no aliens or spaceships, it’s easy to forget that “Limitless” (directed by Neil Burger) is essentially a science fiction movie. In order to enjoy it you must accept it on its very silly terms. If so, you’ll most likely get some laughs out of it and forgive it for its occasional leaps of logic and fatuous dialogue.

“Limitless” also marks the first studio picture that Bradley Cooper is carrying.  The role calls for a star and, as such, he is in practically every scene. With his lean physique and blue eyes, he makes a dashing figure. There’s something engaging in his ragtag style that makes him quite appealing.  Like NZT this movie will, no doubt, help continue his current career trajectory. Robert De Niro, on the other hand, seems to have missed the point and finds no levity in his role. Van Loon would have been the perfect vehicle for a scenery chewer like Spacey or Pacino. Regardless, “Limitless” is rather harmless entertainment, and at 110 minutes, it offers a pleasant enough distraction.

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