- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Rogue Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
t would be curious to see the four or five endings the makers of “Limitless” came up with before they settled for this one, which is smeared with the fingerprints of test audiences and focus groups. Up until that point, the movie was quite entertaining, persuasively arguing the cases both pro and con on using the mind-altering drug that drives the plot. The ending, though, derails everything; it’s pat, cynical, and sends a terribly mixed message about the dangers of drug use, legal or otherwise.
Bradley Cooper is Eddie, an author with a book deal but a crippling case of writer’s block. By chance he runs across his former brother-in-law Vern (Johnny Whitworth), a former dealer who’s moved up to pharmaceuticals. When Vern hears of Eddie’s predicament, he slips him an experimental drug called NZT, which opens neural pathways in the brain and heightens mental awareness in every way imaginable. Eddie is extremely productive while on that one tablet, but when he comes back to Vern for more, he sees that Vern has been roughed up, and the next time he sees Vern, he’s been killed. Eddie finds Vern’s stash of NZT, and becomes a Super Eddie, though he soon discovers that NZT has some significant side effects, namely memory loss. And quite possibly death.
Director Neil Burger does a great job with his color schemes, shooting regular Eddie’s world in a sea of grays while Super Eddie’s world looks like a Claritin commercial. Unfortunately, he doesn’t show the same judgment in the effects department, flashing a bit too much “A Beautiful Mind”-type gobbledygook on the screen and using this rabbit hole-type camera shot (three times!) that is headache-inducing. By the time Eddie’s suffering severe side effects, and he flips the camera sideways to show Eddie vomiting upwards (Get it, his world’s turned upside-down! Huh? Huh?), he’s gone too far. He does, however, set up one scene that produced one of the best audience reactions we’ve seen in years.
Cooper is a perfect fit for the role, finding the likability in such a desperate character, and Robert De Niro, who plays a financial heavyweight intrigued by Eddie’s abilities, gets to dish some of the best dialogue he’s seen in decades. Abbie Cornish is largely wasted as Eddie’s fed-up girlfriend, and pretty much everyone else in the movie is a weasel, though Whitworth, with his Denis Leary-esque features, makes for an entertaining weasel. Still, that ending is practically a parody of itself. For it to end the way it does makes a mockery of everything that took place in the 100 minutes that preceded it. You have to think that Alan Glynn, who wrote the book upon which “Limitless” is based (“The Dark Fields”), is not amused, nor should he be.
If you’re going to do a movie about tapping one’s full potential, you better come up with an ending that strives for a comparable level of greatness. “Limitless” is very successful at luring people in with its lightning-quick smart talk, but it ends like a conversation with a junkie suffering from withdrawal symptoms – nonsensical and morally ambiguous.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Fox dives a little deeper into the world of “Limitless” with a nice collection of bonus material that includes an audio commentary with director Neil Burger and a pair of featurettes about creating the character of Eddie Morra and making the film. There’s also an unrated edition of the movie that isn’t very different from the theatrical version, an alternate ending that's slightly less ambiguous than the original, and a digital copy.