Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Limitless (2011) *** ½

Within 60 seconds of the start of “Limitless” I was asking, “Did David Fincher direct this?” Turns out it was a guy named Neil Burger, but he is clearly influenced by Fincher movies like “Fight Club” and “Phone Booth.” I mean that as a compliment. “Limitless” is not quite up to the level of “Fight Club,” but it has that kinetic, intelligent action feel.

Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a failing writer who stumbles into a stash of experimental, intelligence-enhancing pills. The results are astounding. Not only can he recall everything he has ever seen or heard and synthesize all that data into useful conclusions; his writer’s block is completely cured, and the drug improves his ambition and confidence. Eddie cleans up his apartment, writes a bestseller, then moves on to the stock market. The future is wide open, but other people want the drug, too, and then of course there are the side effects…

The thing about watching “Limitless” is that it makes you feel smart, kind of like watching a porno makes a guy feel well-hung. It’s the opposite of what you would expect, but it happens, and it just adds to the fun. Otherwise, the movie is edge-of-your-seat thrilling, with excellent performances all around. I have to admit that I have been a bit slow to get on the Bradley Cooper train. I guess I just think the guy looks like he would be a dick. I’m ready to declare myself a fan, though, because he is excellent in “Limitless.”

As enjoyable as “Limitless” is, the plot is not quite as tight as it should be. The “big twist” is something you see coming from miles away. Also there are a couple of scenes that strain credulity to the breaking point, such as when Eddie gets a much-needed dose of the medication by drinking the blood of a crook who is on the drug. The final scene also felt a bit off; not bad enough to ruin the movie, but it wasn’t up to the level of the rest of the film. Still, it’s a fun ride, and a vicarious look at what it might be like if you could unlock the full potential of your brain.

3.5 stars out of 5

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