Limitless: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

A gleeful celebration of nonstop doping, Limitless offers up a dim Better Living Through Chemistry fantasy that refuses to rain on its own pill-popping parade. With long, disheveled locks and matching facial scruff, novelist Eddie (Bradley Cooper) struggles with writer’s block until he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth). Over a subsequent Midtown Manhattan drink, Eddie is offered a clear tablet dubbed NZT that has supposedly been approved by the FDA (it hasn’t) and that is capable of unlocking the 80 percent of the human brain that is currently unused (it can). Eddie doesn’t hesitate to ingest it, and the world is suddenly his: Colors pop, sounds ring out, and forgotten memories spring forth from the deep, dark recesses of his cranium, thereby turning him into a no-prescription-necessary superhero.

Even when he finds Vernon executed in his apartment, a craving for the designer drug consumes Eddie, who doesn’t bother to consider the possibly hazardous consequences of his actions. But, to be fair, why would he, when his life is quickly transformed into a jet-setting dream come true, full of cliff-jumping fun in the glittering tropics, a completed novel that wows his editor, and regular opportunities to leave his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), mouth-agape-impressed when he orders food in fluent Italian and Chinese.

The sky's the limit for Eddie, and director Neil Burger (The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones), revels in his protagonist’s newfound abilities via all manner of cinematographic showing off. Telescopic zooms through bustling NYC streets, fish lenses, CG-enhanced temporal skips and jumps, X-ray images of Eddie consuming pills, and a cascade of letters falling around the newly inspired writer are just a few of the visual embellishments that energize his trip. Yet whereas this enthusiastic depiction of getting high (or “clear,” as he describes it) would be an ideal means of parodying our narcotized age, Burger plays the material for straight thrills. And suspense, alas, is even rarer than NZT in Limitless, thanks to a script (by Leslie Dixon, based on an Alan Glynn novel) that introduces threats via the very sort of nonsensical behavior from which four-digit-IQ Eddie should be immune. With careerist motivation and greed following closely on the heels of enhanced mental faculties, Eddie delves into the stock market. But though his predictive acumen is high, his common sense is low: Impatient about the rate of his return, he turns to gnarly Eastern European loan shark Gennady (Andrew Howard) for a quick cash infusion, spending the rest of the film paying for this absurdly illogical decision.

As with so many of the film's twists, Eddie’s decision to get into bed with street thugs might have made more sense if the story were interested in either exploring the inevitable hubris that stems from towering intelligence or following through on the early, Faustian-bargain undercurrents. Instead, Limitless simply hops aboard Eddie’s wild ride to the penthouse, where he helps orchestrate a historic merger for the ridiculously named energy titan Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro, sleepwalking once again in a nothing role), while evading Gennady and a mysterious knife-wielding pursuer (Tomas Arana).

Failing to be convincing when asked to embody Eddie’s true, pathetic self, Cooper otherwise struts about with his usual cockiness, an egomaniacal smirk frequently plastered on his face. Eddie is a potentially inspired strung-out Einstein caricature, but with unchecked drugging presented as a surefire path to self-actualization and rock-star bliss, he instead winds up being merely an unimpeachable hero. Without a complex thought about narcissism, merit, or addiction, Limitless is content to be an empty, one-note, satire-free fairy tale of avarice and corporate-political ambition—one that, ultimately, proves incapable of taking the nation’s current post-economic-crisis pulse.

 
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15 comments
Guest
Guest

Oh my god, it's pissing me off how many people actually liked this movie. It was seriously so predictable that it was boring. Please reconsider your standards next time you try to defend a movie as dull as this.

themassornament
themassornament

Nailed it. With super-human intelligence, who would ever think to do something other than profit immensely on wall street?

Dakota
Dakota

i highly disagree with this review you must not know anything and i dont really think anyone cares about your voice so shutup

Tiffil
Tiffil

This critic is a total blaahhh stain in life. Addiction what drug makes you take it to stay alive, i would say the most addictable. Narcissism was touched on throughout the whole movie, did you even watch it. Who hires a self absorbed idoit to write such reviews. You need a new job and a new view on life.

Jon
Jon

OMG. So it gets bashed because it doesn't somehow inject any ponderous insight about "narcissism, merit, or addiction." Really. As though we as the viewing audience are too dumb to conclude that maybe the lead character's actions are not the most moral. And boy, yes, it does seem to be addictive, and yes, it does seem to encourage sociopathic behavior. Now we've got that out of the way perhaps some us can actually appreciate a really entertaining mind-blowing thrill ride, that Philip K Dick might admire.

guest
guest

After being driven completely mad by drugs, and then being killed by them, I'm sure PKD would, indeed, agree. If you could get him to stop having heart attacks or raving about how the FBI was bugging his phone.

Ray
Ray

"we as the viewing audience are too dumb"

correct

Dbcrossm
Dbcrossm

The "dumbness" of the American moviegoing public is not in question; mining the depths of that "dumbness" is what makes moguls of media moguls.

Guest
Guest

Article is very agreeable.

Vo1taire
Vo1taire

Haven't seen the film, but looks like the usual late-capitalism wet dream material: gain incredible power without actually doing any work leading to a frantic, thoughtless life of hedonistic indulgence and incredible material wealth (i.e. a 'success'). A decent reflection of the basic philosophy underlying lottery-ticket America, the only unfortunate part being that most people continue to both figuratively and literally buy into it.

expertadvice
expertadvice

Maybe you should watch it first before commenting, asshole

Louise
Louise

Saw the film last night-I read the book first a long time ago and it was a real fast lasting buzzzzz. It mentally cleaned my mine up and felt .wow I'm so much more focused.Can A book give you an imagionary hit-Well it did! The film was now here and I was really well entertained and enjoyed it- The buzz??? nothing compared to the book-Back then it was called The Dark fields by an Irish writer Alan Glynn.

Josiane Ochman
Josiane Ochman

What happened to Robert de Niro, does he need the cash that badly. I used to respect and love him as a great actor, now he just bores me.

Sean Harper
Sean Harper

I understand your feelings for the film and I must wholeheartedly disagree. It seems you are judging the film for what it could have been or what it lacked and yet not for what it is: a dream. I can;'t count the amount of times my father alone has asked me the hypothetical question- "How much would you pay for a miracle pill that would turn you into a genius?"It is common fare for every man and woman in our age to wish for some sort of pharmaceutical miracle and this film only indulges that fantasy. Which is why I find it redundant to point out the films seeming carelessness to our nation's economic tribulations.It's like being angry for not being invited to a party. You can hate and resent them but that is only because you wish you were there. I found this film thoroughly enjoyable.

Rashid Franklin
Rashid Franklin

The only thing i found interesting in this movie was how many times Cooper's hairpiece was changing colors. He simply does not have the leading man presence to pull this off. This movive is basic rehash of a very old idea.

 

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