Limitless
This movie had better not be about limitless cups of coffee.


Theatrical Release Date: 03/18/2011
Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes


Trailer:

I bet a postcard with Bradley Cooper’s face on it still takes 7 weeks to get delivered.

One of the more interesting promotional items sent to me was this little package, which I received near the end of 2010:

Limitless NZT

It came unannounced and, at first glance, seemed like some pharmaceutical doodad. Was it for lowering my cholesterol? Treating adult on-set diabetes? Erectile dysfunction? (I’m not the only one who gets those e-mails, right?) After going to the website (theclearpill.com), nicely done up to mimic your typical drug company advert, the answer became quite clear that this was supposed to excite me for the film, “Limitless”.

The premise is that Bradley Cooper goes from zero to hero with the help of the drug NZT, which boosts his brain power, allowing him to become rich and successful beyond his wildest dreams. Of course, with great wealth comes great Robert De Niro … umm, wait … well, it’s Robert De Niro so most of that statement is right.

For the sake of the plot, De Niro is rich and loves making money, Cooper has figured out how to make Wall Street his bitch (he also loves money), and so the two join forces to make a lot of money. But along the way Cooper gets indebted to a Russian loan shark (Andrew Howard) who is shaking him down for a continued taste of NZT. The film unfolds as Cooper tries to stay ahead of both his ‘business associates’, all the while trying to convince Abbie Cornish (sans Australian accent) that she should stick around because they’re in love.

At one point when sitting down to write this review, I even thought about taking one of the pills I was sent. Maybe it would spark an extra bit of creativity in my addled brain. But if it did work, using it to talk about this film would be a waste of its powers.

Now, first of all, the title is somewhat disingenuous. “Limitless”? They’re apparently hoping that describes my patience. A more appropriate title would have been: “Can you shave 20 minutes off of this, I’ve got stuff to do”. The film quickly gives away the conceit regarding how accessing all of the corners of our minds can allow for success in all areas of life. From that point on, we’re simply waiting to see how Cooper will outwit his opponents. There are some nice visual touches and moments of decent tension but they are few and far between.

Speaking of moments, our protagonist always seems to back himself into some corner and then spin out like he hit the B button on a game controller. Director Neil Burger did “The Illusionist” back in 2006. Well he must love magic, because every time he wanted a plot point to go away, POOF! Begone! And we were whisked away to something else that I suppose passes the time.

Perhaps the worst bit of audience trickery on display is that this film is for the ladies because it has Bradley Cooper in it. Sure, he’s a handsome fellow but anyone hoping for a lot of shirtless man-hunk saw everything you’re going to see in the trailer (and he was in much better shape in “The A-Team“). The way in which Burger and the effects team play with saturating the colors in the film as a reference to the effects of NZT is fairly effective, and it makes Cooper’s eyes piercingly blue … but I’m not sure that makes the overall effort worth your 11 dollars.

Every once in a while, “Limitless” tried to be innovative, or at least buck ultra-safe tendencies, but this is much more of a lazy afternoon rental while you’re on the couch than something you need to see on the big screen and I can only muster up a 2.5 out of 5 for the effort. Had the need for a romantic angle been justified in any way, shape or form, I’d give this another half point but the only reason for Abbie Cornish to be here is to remind me how lovely she is; because her character, and too much of the film, simply could have been left out and I doubt any of us would even notice.

2.5 out of 5