Limitless (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner
Limitless stars Bradley Cooper as a bad writer who swallows a magical pill and overnight is neurally rearranged into a multilingual, supermodel-fucking Beethoven of day-trading. Cooper’s acting chops are sharper and more self-deprecating then you might expect for such a slick-lookin’ Alpha. He brings his versatility and charm to bear on what would otherwise be a Matrixy cliché difficult to not make suck. Add to that the Hitchcockian visual and psychological ironies director Neil Burger lets coalesce around several action sequences, and Limitless blossoms into enjoyable. Aussie goddess Abbie Cornish, for example, escapes capture in one scene by charging into a crowded ice-skating rink, grabbing a random schoolgirl by the wrists, and swinging her around so that the blades of the girl’s skates slice open the face of a murderous pursuer. I am so happy to be alive in a world in which I am able to write the previous sentence without hyperbole or embellishment. That mainstream moviemakers could even dream of seriously filming such a simple, insane spectacle is a testament to the serendipity of stupidity, and the surprise it repeatedly yields. Another spell in Limitless’s wand is that screenwriter Leslie Dixon actually gives venerable villain Robert DeNiro some awesome lines to chew on.
DeNiro’s plunge from iconic pugnacious thespian into the unfunny punchline punctuating Hollywood’s long, shallow joke is sad, I guess, all the more so because it’s so unnecessary. If you give him good lines, he rifles them further into wry tenacity than almost anyone. But if you give him bad lines, he will look like a mumbling, squinty-eyed pile of doo-doo. So cheers Leslie! This movie isn’t for snobs though. Massive plot holes and impossible coincidences keep it firmly pedestrian. Since no one has cell phones, long, 80’s-style answering machine messages are constantly being left for our heroes to check by pressing flashing red buttons when they enter their apartments. And while Bradley Cooper is made smart enough to make a bazillion dollars and manipulate everyone through Herculean Sherlockian deduction, he somehow remains too stupid to think even briefly, critically about his burgeoning addiction to the unstable source of that omniscience. Analogies abound. Lower guard, enter Limitless, leave thrilled, but don’t forget the first step.