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Overall Rating
2.67

Awesome: 6.06%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Just Average: 30.3%
Pretty Crappy54.55%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 9 user ratings



Limitless
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Requiem For A Dink"
2 stars

Remember that scene in “Defending Your Life” when Albert Brooks, a recent arrival in the hereafter, is informed by caseworker Rip Torn that he, like most humans, only uses 3% of his brain and essentially develops a case of brain envy when he learns that Torn uses 48% of his? (If you don’t or if, for some inexplicable reason, you have never actually seen “Defending Your Life,” I hereby order you to drop everything you are doing, including reading this review, and watch it as soon as possible.) Now imagine taking that joke and using it as the inspiration for a film that aspires to be a cross between “Requiem for a Dream” (well, at least the censored-for-Blockbuster version) and “Crank” and you might come up with something akin to “Limitless.” Unfortunately, it quickly becomes obvious that the people behind the film aren’t exactly taxing their respective 3%’s and what might have been an intriguing mix of action and ethical drama turns into a noisy, overly flashy and borderline ridiculous mess featuring a nonsensical story, an over-caffeinated visual style and the fairly repugnant sight of one of the least likable leading men working today essaying the role of one the least likable central character to appear in any film in recent memory.

The cretin in question is Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper), a would-be writer who, as the story begins, has an overdue book contract for a novel that he hasn’t even begun to write, a borderline drinking problem and a girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), who has just come to her senses and kicked him to the curb. Walking down the street one day doing absolutely nothing, and not very well, he comes across ex-brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), a former drug dealer who now claims to be representing a new wonder pill that will revolutionize the world and has already been approved by the FDA. You know how humans only use a certain percentage of their brain and the rest more or less lies dormant? Well, this pill, NZT-48, helps fire up and connect all those synapses so that every bit of the brain’s capabilities are employed. Out of charity, he gives Eddie one of the pills and when he takes it, he discovers that it really works. Of course, the effect only lasts for so long and in order to continue to get a supply of the pills, which are apparently worth $800 a pop, Eddie becomes Vernon’s errand boy until he arrives at Vernon’s apartment one day to find the place trashed and his benefactor murdered, presumably by others looking for his stash. Luckily, Eddie manages to find Vernon’s supply (in the single area of the apartment that hasn’t been trashed--if only the lazy thugs had checked out that last little place. . .) and takes it for himself.

Popping a pill a day, sometimes more, Eddie becomes some kind of genius--he finishes his book in four days, he can pick up foreign languages in a day and can even access old memories of watching “Enter the Dragon” to aid him when he gets into a fight on a subway platform. He then begins to study the financial markets and realizes that he can use his newfound abilities to see patterns where others only see chaos in order to make a fortune. With no real money of his own, he winds up borrowing from nasty Russian loan shark Gennady (Andrew Howard) and quickly becomes the newest hotshot on Wall Street and his success comes to the attention of impossibly rich and powerful business tycoon Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who wants to bring him in to advise on an enormous upcoming corporate merger that he is involved with. On the surface, everything seems to be going swell for Eddie--he even wins Lindy back, though that doesn’t stop him from the occasional dalliance--but there are a couple of flaws. For one, he only has a finite supply of the pills and needs to figure out a way to recreate them. For another, they seem to be inspiring strange blackouts and when he meets up with his ex-wife (Anna Friel), another former user of the drug, he learns that coming off of it is not going to be easy. To make matters worse, he finds himself constantly being pursued by a strange man (Tomas Arana) who is apparently after his pills, by Gennady, whom he inexplicably forgot to repay and who has discovered the secret of the pills for himself and wants more and by the police, who want to know why he was apparently the last person to be seen with a sexy dame who later turned up brutally murdered.

The basic premise of “Limitless” is solid enough, I suppose, and in the hands of the right people, it could have worked as an effective piece of sci-fi paranoia along the lines of the work of the late, great Philip K. Dick. Sadly, while the concept is strong, the execution by screenwriter Leslie Dixon and director Neil Burger is weak. The film is based on Alan Glynn’s 2001 novel “The Dark Fields” and as I have not read it myself, I am unsure as to whether the story deficiencies are inherent to the material or came up later in the process of translating it from the page to the screen. One of the major problems with the script is that while it is all about someone who becomes super-smart because he is able to mentally make connections that bring things into clearer focus, it itself is filled with holes, incongruities and bits that are just plain inexplicable. Granted, some of these--such as the notion that a guy would just randomly give a sample of this miracle drug to a known ne’er-do-well that he just happened to run into on the street for the first time in more than a decade--are the kind of hiccups that viewers sort of have to accept because without them, there is no story. On the other hand, the whole subplot about the Russian loan shark is exceptionally stupid because we are apparently led to believe that our hero, despite being warned about the dangers of stiffing the guy and despite having enough money to pay him back a dozen times over, would just somehow forget to repay the guy. After a while, the screenplay doesn’t even pretend to show any interest in the ideas that it raises early on and the film just descends into a series of silly action sequences--the one in which Lindy evades a pursuer in Central Park by wielding a figure skater at the guy is exceptionally ridiculous--that culminates in a finale so needlessly violent that I was actually surprised after the screening when I discovered that it had somehow managed to earn itself a PG-13 rating after all. For his part, Burger tries to paper over the holes by deploying any number of overly flashy camera moves and a pounding soundtrack throughout which are ostensibly meant to put us in Eddie’s mindset as he takes the drug but which winds up having the effect of inspiring viewers to reach for a couple of other drugs--namely Tylenol and Dramamine.

And yet, even if all the story kinks and holes had been worked out and adequately filler, I have to admit that there is still a very good chance that I would have disliked “Limitless” because of my basic loathing of Bradley Cooper and all that he represents. An actor whose rise to fame can more or less be attributed solely to the fact that some producers didn’t want to pay Ryan Reynolds’ quote, he oozes smugness and smarminess in every role that he plays to such a degree that I want to punch him every time he comes on the screen. Now when he is playing someone who is supposed to be utterly repellent, as he did as the evil fiancee in “Wedding Crashers,” the basic affront that he offers to all that is good, decent and pure can be somewhat acceptable but when we are supposed to like and sympathize with him as we more or less are asked to do here, it feels wrong from the get-go and he comes across as someone who doesn’t deserve to be in the audience watching a movie starring Robert De Niro, let alone appearing in scenes with him. (Okay, maybe he can watch “Righteous Kill” and “Godsend” but that is about it.) To make matters even worse, the filmmakers have included two wonderful actresses in the cast, Abbie Cornish and Anna Friel, and then neglected to give them anything of substance to do.

Surprisingly, the one element of “Limitless” that does briefly work is the performance turned in from De Niro himself. He is only in a few scenes and this job was clearly nothing more than a paycheck for him as so many of his recent performances have been. However, he seems to have inexplicably found something in the material that inspired him because while it is unlikely that clips from this particular film will weigh heavy in any future Lifetime Achievement Award clip reels, he kicks up his energy level a notch or two with welcome results--he has one big monologue that would have been the highlight of a good movie and is so much more successful than anything that surrounds it that it almost feels like it actually did come from another movie. When he is on screen, “Limitless” does briefly come to life and almost feels like a real movie. When he is off-screen, however, not only does it fail to come across as the smart entertainment that it wishes that it was, you can actually feel it killing your brain cells as it goes on and on.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20576&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/17/11 23:00:00
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User Comments

1/04/12 Joe Too many factual errors--Nothing good comes from a failed premise. 3 stars
12/24/11 debbie hodgdon humorous, love movies with extreme sharpness, didn't have enough of it 4 stars
11/28/11 Monday Morning Don't believe the 2-star reviews - this film is great!!! 5 stars
10/19/11 Magic Sometimes, you just want to watch some mind candy. Cooper is still a smug dick. 3 stars
7/17/11 action movie fan moderately engrossing drug induced success thriller 3 stars
5/08/11 steve meyer Limitless - the movie (soon to be on DVD and Blue Ray) is GREAT due to the theme! 5 stars
5/03/11 Luis Loved this film! A good thriller! 4 stars
3/22/11 Man Out 6 Bucks Amusing satire on bankster-loving USA 4 stars
3/19/11 PAUL SHORTT SMART, SHARP AND VISUALLY IMPRESSIVE 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Mar-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Jul-2011

UK
  N/A

Australia
  18-Mar-2011
  DVD: 19-Jul-2011


Directed by
  Neil Burger

Written by
  Leslie Dixon

Cast
  Robert De Niro
  Bradley Cooper
  Abbie Cornish
  Andrew Howard



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