The thrills don't quite addle up
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, March 18, 2011
In “Limitless,” a man gets hooked on a new designer drug that allows him, by popping a little clear tablet once a day, to access 100 percent of his brain, instead of the tiny fraction that’s popularly believed that we use. Almost overnight, Eddie (Bradley Cooper) goes from being a scruffy, mumbling novelist with writer’s block and a girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) who has just dumped him to a multilingual motormouth with a successful stock portfolio, a photographic memory, the analytic powers of Watson the supercomputer, the martial-arts moves of Jason Bourne and the pick of every beautiful woman in New York.
Who wouldn’t love a high like that? Soon Eddie is on the run from several disreputable types who have also gotten a jones for mother’s little helper, called NZT, the demand for which vastly outstrips the supply. Through a serendipitous — and bloody — series of events, Eddie has come into quite a stash. Understandably, he doesn’t want to share it. But he also doesn’t want to die.
In director Neil Burger’s adrenalized, sharply edited and surprisingly engaging thriller (adapted by Leslie Dixon from Alan Glynn’s novel “The Dark Fields”), Eddie’s choice seems to be between getting knifed by another addled NZT addict or killed by the drug itself.
The hangover, is seems, is a drag. Coming down from the superhuman rush NZT produces — nicely rendered by Burger with an assortment of trippy, music-video-style camera and computer tricks — gives new meaning to the term buzz kill.
Withdrawal can make you very, very sick — or worse — as Eddie finds out when his supply starts running out and he goes in search of other users, all of whom seem to be dazed, in the hospital or dead.
“Limitless” is a heck of a ride. On the way to its unpredictable (if less than wholly satisfying) conclusion, it is entertaining, a little silly and visually dazzling.
It’s not mind-bending like “Inception,” where you feel as if you can’t take your eyes off the screen without missing something. You can. But why would you want to?
“Limitless” looks great, and not just because of Cooper and his amazing baby blues, or Cornish, hot ex-girlfriend Lindy who eventually turns up again in the chemically enhanced life of her formerly loser lover. The way Burger shoots them when they’re on NZT — and, yes, Lindy takes a taste at one point — they look like not just movie stars but demigods, all golden, glowing skin, white teeth and darting eyes.
Watching the movie feels a bit like being on something yourself.
Of course, for some there may be a little of a post-movie hangover, too. As fun and original as “Limitless” may be, the slightly open-ended climax, which involves a sharky business tycoon (Robert De Niro) who’s after Eddie not for his drugs but for his brain on drugs, doesn’t quite add up. At least not in the cool, clear light of the multiplex lobby. As a recent screening let out, one group of moviegoers could be overheard arguing about what just happened.
I felt the same way. For an hour and a half or so, “Limitless” made me high. But it also left me with a tiny bit of a headache.
Contains violence, drug abuse, sexuality and some crude language.