Limitless (2011)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
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Overall Rating 74%
Overall Rating
Ranked #224
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Connections: Limitless

With the help of a mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100% of his brain abilities, a struggling writer becomes a financial wizard, but it also puts him in a new world with lots of dangers. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: March 26, 2012
The brain is a fascinating thing. You could spend a lifetime studying how it works, and still just brush the surface. Our film tonight explores the effects of throwing this already incredibly powerful organ into overdrive.

Eddie Morra is barely keeping himself together; he's just drifting through life, unable to finish writing his book and pay his rent. He's not really a lazy man, he just has a motivation problem. All that is about to change though. Just after his girlfriend dumps him for his shiftless ways, he runs into his ex-wife's drug-dealer brother, Vernon, who persuades him to join him for drinks. Seeing that Eddie's at the end of his rope, he tells him about a brand new drug that's about to sweep the market called NZT. According to Vernon, the pill accesses that grand majority of the brain that's not used. Naturally, Eddie assumes it's just a sales pitch, but figuring he had nothing to lose, he pops it anyway, and suddenly finds his memory and deduction skills have increased a hundred fold, placing his IQ somewhere in the four-digit zone. After realizing that he can read the stock markets like a book, he takes out an illicit loan from a Russian mobster and converts it into two million dollars in less than a week, using a steady intake of the pills to fuel his profitable ventures at Wall Street and ultimately, dealings with business super-tycoon, Carl Van Loon. Unfortunately, the human brain was never supposed to run at red line for such an extended period of time, and to make matters even worse, that Russian is quite adamant about getting his money back, and that was before he gets a taste of NZT himself.

It's a fickle thing with movies. So much depends on how much disbelief you're willing to suspend, and the same person will shift those limits from film to film. And sometimes, something extremely minute has enough of an avalanche effect as to screw up the whole movie experience. In Limitless's case, the main external conflict is absolute bullshit. You want us to believe that Mr. Super Brain didn't find it advantageous to repay the dangerous Russian man that threatened to filet his torso, pull it over his head and suffocate him in his own skin in a timely matter? He turned the hundred grand into two mil in less than a week, every ounce of common sense says you show up at his door no later than day three with a big case of bills and all of that nonsense is avoided. Making matters worse is how cheesy this whole ordeal climaxed, especially the source of NZT therein. That whole thing should have been scrapped and the time spent focusing on Eddie's relationship with Van Loon, his dependency on NZT, and if you really felt a need to add some dangerous external conflict, Tomas Arana's character needed some desperate fleshing out to explain his extreme ways.

Also, I had a huge problem with the movie's ending. I'm not going to go into the details obviously, but I absolutely hated the way everything was wrapped up all nice and happy. A movie like this absolutely cries out for a dark twist, if not an all-out noir ending. And to add even further insult to injury, it's one of the most anti-climatic affairs I've seen in recent memory. Please, give us something.

With all that said, there's actually a fairly entertaining story here. Watching Eddie rise from rags to riches and suddenly finding himself all but running Wall Street itself was a lot more engaging than you might thing it would be, and the additional highlights of the side effects the pills are having on his body and his attempts to tame them only add to the mix. Again, it's a detrimental shame that these aspects weren't explored more fully. Also, the visuals are absolutely amazing. The effects of the pill are represented with the enlightened taking on pale blue eyes and being bathed in a golden light, and their endeavors are often highlighted with doubles, floating glyphs and infinite zooms. You can argue the pros and cons of the plot all day long, but there's no denying that the film looks stunning.

As far as acting goes, the entire film rested on Bradley Cooper's shoulders, and he was certainly up to the challenge. Throughout the movie, he shifts from a dirty, uneloquent slob to suave incarnate, and he excels at both ends of the spectrum. I've always been a sucker for fast talking con men, and he nails it out of the park. He's obviously got the skills, and he's well on his way to being huge if he keeps it up. In smaller roles, Abbie Cornish and Anna Friel were likewise above average, both of them handling more emotional roles beautifully. Of all people, Robert De Niro was the one who fell a little flat in my opinion. Not that his performance was subpar (De Niro likely couldn't be subpar if he tried) but there was a sense of intimidation that Van Loon should have given off that wasn't there. De Niro can do intimidating, and do it bloody fucking well, so I'm not sure where the problem was.

You know, there's some serious potential here, but it was thrown away as our filmmakers felt a need to cater to the lowest common denominator. I've never read the book (The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn) it's based on, but my interest is certainly piqued; that medium would be much better equipped to explore the man's inner feelings. As for it's movie counterpart, Limitless was anything but. 6/10 plus a bonus "Hurrah!" for a scene where a character wields a small child wearing ice skates as a weapon.
blarc #1: blarc - added July 20, 2012 at 7:23pm
I really liked this. to me, i felt like they hada great script and then someone looked at their watch and said. "oh no, we are at 1:45 long. End the Movie!" and cut scene. Cooper was outstanding. It makes you wonder what it would be like to actually know everything. I liked it.
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