Really, this should go without saying in a review, but there will be spoilers in this post. If you don’t want to know how Limitless ends, stop reading now.
This weekend, the husband (he really needs a nickname for this blog) and I went to see Limitless, in which Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a struggling writer who takes a pill (that he gets from his drug-dealing former brother-in-law) that unlocks all of that supposedly wasted potential in the human brain (which, incidentally, is a modern myth). The magic drug enables our “hero” to learn anything with ease, and after completing his novel, learning a few new languages, and making friends with either Eurotrash or the children of Central American drug lords, he puts his new brain power to use playing the stock market (and securing a loan from a shady Russian loan shark–not sure why Super Brain thought that was a good idea).
Morra’s success at day trading attracts the attention of Robert DeNiro’s business tycoon Carl Van Loon. And yes, that’s exactly how it’s spelled. Until I saw it written out in one of the scenes I thought the name was spelled Van Leuwhen, or something a little less reminiscent of either a crazy person or a waterfowl. Van Loon is, supposedly, very short-tempered, but maybe DeNiro didn’t get the memo on that one, because I wasn’t feeling any menace from him. Van Loon wants Morra’s help in a merger with another giant company, and to be honest the business aspects of this whole plot point were lost on me. Meanwhile, Super Brain is starting to have problems–Morra is blacking out for huge chunks of time in which he gets in fights with random guys in the subway and (maybe?) kills a woman. He tries to stop taking the magic drug, but is alarmed to find out that all of the other people who have stopped taking it are either dead or dying. Also, a creepy guy is following him and the Russian loan shark has found out about the drug and demands a steady supply.
And, all of the above is the first thing that is wrong with this film. There’s just too much going on. I would say there are too many subplots, but I’m not even sure which is the main plot. There are at least three “villains” (and none of those are particularly scary) even if you don’t count what should be the real antagonist in this film–the magic drug that causes homicidal blackouts when you’re on it, but kills you when you stop taking it. With so much going on, the audience doesn’t get to delve too deeply into any of the conflicts in the film. I understand that the filmmakers wanted to create a frenetic look and feel to the film, which is emphasized with heavy-handed (and nausea inducing) fish-eye tracking shots through New York City. The action makes for an entertaining ride of a movie, but there isn’t much to think about when the lights come up.
I was left thinking about something, though–what Limitless could have been. The film ends with Cooper’s character seemingly having it all. One year after the climactic scene (in which he literally drinks the Russian loan shark’s blood), he is running for Senate and apparently so popular that overflow fund raising events are sold out. When Van Loon, who has purchased a drug company capable of making the magic brain drug, tries to strong arm our hero, Morra informs him that: 1. he no longer takes the drug, 2. he was able to re-engineer it to work effectively without the nasty side effects, and 3. his short-term use has permanently increased his mental capacity. Maybe Morra is bluffing, but the effect is the same. Ladies and gentlemen, our hero has achieved the new American Dream–he has everything he ever wanted, and all he had to do was take a pill and kill some people. What I would have rather seen was a film in which the hero really learns something–perhaps that hard work pays off, or that all the money in the world can’t buy happiness. I wanted Eddie Morra to go through the pain and struggle to get free of his chemical dependency, and then I wanted him to realize he could write a fantastic novel all along. Or, I wanted him to stay addicted and die a very rich, but lonely man, never able to make lasting connections because ultimately he lost touch with the imperfections that make us human.
My rating: 3/5 for a fun film that had potential, but ultimately fell flat.