After Limitless ended, I was unsure what it was trying to say, if it was trying to say anything. It involves the use of a drug that allows a person to utilize 100% of their brain power at all times, as long as the drug is in their system. Consequences occur, but when it’s no longer convenient, that plot point is dropped. In the end, I’m not sure if the film is anti-drug, pro-drug, indifferent toward their usage or somewhere in between.
The film stars Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra, a terrible writer. I have no idea how his writing is, as we never get to read it, but he sits in his computer room for months with nothing to show for that time. To me, that’s one of the marks of a bad writer. His relationship with his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish) ends right when the film begins. He’s behind on his rent, addicted to cigarettes, and basically embodies a man whose life has gone completely in the wrong direction. I like to think this is what Cooper’s Hangover character acts like when he’s not engaged in random trips to Las Vegas.
He runs into a drug dealer on the street. Apparently this man was the brother of his ex-wife, or something like that. This dealer claims that he has a pill that allows you to become completely focused, using as much of your brain as humanly possible. Eddie is given a trial pill, and before he knows it, 90 pages of his novel are written, he’s helped his neighbor write a college paper, and he feels on top of the world. He wakes up the next morning without that feeling, though, so he has to acquire more pills.
One thing leads to another, a man is killed, Eddie gets his pills, life gets better, and then there is a crash. Or at least, there are hints at a crash. He begins getting blackouts, like parts of his life are missing, and then he begins investigating this “FDA Approved” drug. He also starts working for corporate big shot Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who hires Eddie after he makes $2 million on the stock market in 10 days. De Niro gets really underutilized in his role, often disappearing for a while for whatever reason.
These blackouts end up not causing much of a problem, nor does the threat of imminent death. See, one of the subplots of the film involves Eddie trying to track down a bunch of people who also may have taken this drug, usually finding out that they died or are in the process, usually in some sort of intensive care unit. His ex-wife even gets involved at one point so she can explain to him the dire effects of the drugs.
But then that’s forgotten about, and he just continues to use them with little to no side effects. It’s here where I begin to wonder what the film was trying to say about their usage. It doesn’t come down on any side of the line, despite dancing around the issue for a large portion of its runtime. It makes me wonder why these types of ideas are even introduced considering Limitless never does anything of significance with them.
I know why, though. It’s because watching a story of a man who acquires a magical pill that makes all of his problems go away wouldn’t make for a very good film. We want to see him stumble, have obstacles to overcome, or even fall all the way back down to where he began. We like that kind of tension in our films so that there’s some kind of tension. I mean, would you really want to watch someone sit at his computer picking stocks like a pro for 90 minutes? Actually, if the narration given by Bradley Cooper endured and stayed as funny as it was for most of Limitless, then I might be okay with it.
For most of the film’s runtime, we do get that narration from Cooper. These voice over parts are probably the highlights of the film, considering they provide us insight into his character while also being snarky and sarcastic enough to know that he doesn’t take things seriously. Unfortunately, that personality trait doesn’t come through when he’s interacting with other characters, which makes him more bland than he rightly should be considering he’s using all of his brain power.
The closest we get to a real villain comes from a man who Eddie borrows money from when he first begins his stock market experiment. Why Eddie doesn’t pay this man, Gennady (Andrew Howard) back right after he makes $2 million is beyond me, considering he only borrowed $100,000, but eventually Gennady comes looking for him, gets his hands on the drug, and becomes a bothersome person for a while.
Is Limitless thrilling? For some of the time, yes. At least, when we first learn about the drug and begin seeing its effects on people, I was having a lot of fun. But after the ups and downs of its usage show up, it became readily apparent that the plot is going to meander until it reaches whatever conclusion we end up with. A lot of time is wasted in the multiple subplots, meaning that the film doesn’t ever completely come together as a whole.
Limitless is fun for a while, but ultimately wears thin while trying to do too much, yet never saying anything about its primary gimmick, drugs. It doesn’t take a firm stance on anything that it contains. Its characters aren’t well developed, with both De Niro and Cornish having little to do with their far-too-small roles, although I didn’t mind Bradley Cooper providing us with narration. It’s somewhat enjoyable, but it needed something more to make it absolutely worthwhile. I can’t really recommend it, even if it wasn’t a bad film.