Published Mar 18, 2011There is a pervasive, implicit flaw plaguing Limitless, from inception to execution to its bitter end, making the already far-fetched and decidedly tongue-in-cheek premise exceedingly frustrating. And that flaw is this: Bradley Cooper plays a directionless, slacker wannabe writer introduced to a miracle drug by ex-brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) that allows him to utilize previously untapped portions of his brain, making him some sort of walking Google search engine bent on taking the finance world by storm.
But if this drug makes Cooper some sort of ersatz genius, why isn't he depressed or going insane? Why is his response to the drug to buy into every social convention like a mindless puppet, working out, cleaning his apartment and reading up on stocks? Furthermore, why are people enamoured by him rather than threatened, petty and vengeful like they are in real life when confronted by others more intelligent?
The answer, which is apparent in every increasingly ludicrous plot development and overly stylized sequence, is that the people behind this production don't quite have the focus and knowledge provided by the mystery drug within the text. They presume that a higher functioning brain is merely one that can retain and access memories and arbitrary facts, spouting out dialogue in various languages, but never developing any sort of discernment.
Of course, ignoring this overwhelmingly insulting and even embarrassing plot hole, Limitless is a harmless, if morally stunted, parable about drug addiction and the human need to dominate that's far more entertaining than it has any right to be.
Director Neil Burger injects an endless barrage of visual trickery, thrusting us quickly through streets and buildings in single digital shots, using the In Dreams mind shift aesthetic and other various sight aids, such as ceiling tiles turning into stock ticker information. This constant overdose of visual mayhem even makes some of the more absurd plot developments – such as Abbie Cornish using a small child in figure skates as a weapon against a nameless villain – completely acceptable and even welcome.
Even though this minor diversion is a complete mess, actually dropping plot points, like a potential murder, without any sort of resolution, it does pass the time quite effectively, offering up a few laughs and a healthy dose of "are you fucking kidding me?" (Alliance)