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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Limited Appeal
by Richard Jack Smith

In a world of infinite possibilities, would you rely on pills to enhance your mental performance? This question should be directed toward Neil Burger, the director of Limitless. The moral conundrum facing this filmmaker is twofold: first, how does one make drug-taking a form of entertainment and secondly, should the film have been made at all? Perhaps a deeper analysis would help.

The plot unravels much like the world, as perceived by writer Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), changes overnight when he receives a new wonder drug by his ex-wife’s brother, Vernon Gant (Johnny Whitworth). Now able to utilise 100% of his mental faculties as opposed to the normal 20%, Eddie becomes a genius on Wall Street and bigwig Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) wants to work with him. The only problem involves what will happen to Eddie if his supply runs out -- plus he owes money to a street heavy who inadvertently becomes a user himself.

Trying to find an emotional foothold with the screenplay by Leslie Dixon (from Alan Glynn’s book The Dark Fields) is like holding a red hot poker. Also, plot holes stick out a mile. A murder which may or may not have been committed by Eddie cries out for further investigation. The structure for this film more closely resembles the third act of a screenplay. Therefore, crucial background material goes into the wastepaper basket.

At the risk of sounding like a psychologist, I will be brief. Limitless has no moral center. Reason never enters into Eddie’s thought process, either through dialogue or voice-over. All he cares about revolves around presenting a better, working version of himself, an “enhanced Eddie,” as he puts it. When people lose their jobs due to his meteoric rise in business, he barely bats an eyelid. How much more selfish can you get? He even encourages his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) to take the drug so she can escape from a deadly stalker.

For sheer craftsmanship, Limitless short-changes the purist. For instance, the camerawork feels so busy (almost out of control with all the lens effects) that nausea may soon set in. A 3D motion picture does not have this much activity. Burger needs to go back and watch his earlier, more minimalist-inclined The Illusionist (2006) for its pared-back style and content.

Robert De Niro still remains a personal favourite. It’s not his fault that his character’s surname is Loon. He does at least provide some memorable support. The only drawback? When he leaves the screen, two minutes later you want him back. That shows he’s still got the magic.

The pacing here will not win any Academy Awards. Editors Naomi Geraghty and Tracy Adams start off rather dubiously before settling into a comfortable, yet complacent tempo. Unlike Inception (a cerebrally dull exercise to me), Limitless does at least keep you guessing.

Cooper probably won’t become a break-out star from this effort, for he basically plays one of two notes throughout -- the first one being ineptitude and econdly, a compromised, immoral character only interested in self-aggrandizement. Not a good start if you want to become the next Tom Cruise.

In my opinion, Limitless ends up being a thriller with only limited appeal.  

(Released by Rogue Pictures and rated “PG-13” for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language.)

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