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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eddie (Bradley Cooper) takes a pill to make him smarter in Limitless.

1.5 Stars

For a movie about people who are amazingly smart, Limitless sure is dumb. Director Neil Burger's thriller looks flashy, but the characters and situations are groan-inducing to say the least. I found myself enjoying it to a certain extent in the beginning, but as it progresses, it becomes mind-numbingly stupid. Sure, its characters are poorly developed, but worse are the film's twists. They're unpredictable, but only because you can't imagine a film would take such an idiotic turn. Not sure why so many enjoyed it earlier this year. It's easily the worst I've seen so far in 2011.

Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) is a down-and-out New York writer who just got dumped by his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), and barely has enough money to live on. One afternoon, he stumbles across his ex-brother-in-law (Johnny Whitworth), who tells his the simple way out of his troubles is a little pill known as NZT. What NZT does is allow you to use 100% of your brain, making you recall every fact you've ever known and making your instincts keener than everyone around you. The benefits are instant as far as Eddie is concerned. He finishes his book in days, cleans up on stocks, and wins back Lindy. But NZT is not without its costs, especially when Eddie's fellow users start dropping like flies and a creepy man starts following him. The protection of billionaire investor Carl Von Loon (Robert DeNiro) can't save him from his oncoming fate, but maybe NZT itself, so Eddie hordes as much as he can while trying to figure out a way out of his dire situation.

Everyone knows most thrillers rely on some contrivances to reach a desirable conclusion. Limitless' contrivances shouldn't even be called that, however. They are beyond contrived to the point that the film gets totally derailed on more than one occasion. At one point, a man who was just blinded decides shooting his gun (which has about 30 bullets, mind you) all over the place hoping to kill his mark. During another key scene, a character escapes by picking up a stranger's child and slashing another man's face with the blade of the child's ice skate. No one says a word.

I know, I know. You're supposed to shut your mind off during movies like this. Just sit back and enjoy the show. But why? Why shouldn't we demand intelligent thrillers rather than sit through schlock like this just because it features a pretty face (Cooper) and a respected veteran (DeNiro)? There's hardly a virtue to praise this film for. The only person I'll give any credit to is the director, Burger, who composes the film with a great deal of energy, but I wish some of his verve was focused on coherence and credibility.

Sometimes I get mad when I watch a very bad movie, but Limitless didn't make me feel that way. It's very bad, don't get me wrong, but my reaction afterward was more of disappointment for what could have been. The premise of the film is strong, and the director is one with some promise, so what happened? Clearly, Cooper wasn't rangy enough to make Eddie as vibrant as he needed to be. And DeNiro's role probably should have been fleshed out more. But they don't lie at the heart of the problem. Instead, it's the screenplay that lets the film—and the viewers—down most. So stay away. This one is a stinker.

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