Friday, March 18, 2011


An occasionally intense, less coherent version of John Travolta's "Phenomenon." Made for fans of Bradley Cooper and tame thrillers.

Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language.


For a movie about a pill that offers perfect clarity of mind, Limitless sure is unclear on what it is trying to be.

Dead-beat Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover) is in the process of hitting rock bottom. He is past deadline on a book that he was paid in advance to write, his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish, Sucker Punch) has left him and he owes several months of rent. But it’s not like he has ever really had it together. Looking like a homeless man with a drug addiction, Eddie quickly married his college sweetheart Melissa (Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies) on impulse, only to divorce her even quicker.

In his current down-and-out state, Eddie runs into Melissa’s brother Vernon. Once a drug dealer, Vernon now works in legit pharmaceuticals – or so he claims. Seeing Eddie’s current situation, Vernon offers him a sample of a new supposedly FDA approved drug that won’t hit the market until next year – NZT 48. They say humans only use 10% of their brain power. Upon taking NZT, Eddie is capable of using 100% for 24 hours. In that first day, Eddie cleans his apartment, sleeps with his landlord’s hot Asian wife and writes 90 page of his novel – all things that would never have happened to a loser like him without it.

Having tasted easy success, of course, Eddie wants more. When he pays a visit to Vernon’s upscale apartment, Eddie finds Vernon’s dead body sitting in the middle of his ransacked mess. Eddie can only assume that whoever murdered Eddie was looking for Vernon’s stash of NZT. Before the police arrive, Eddie scours the hours and finds the hidden pills along with Vernon’s cash.

And just like that, Eddie begins a new life of success and wealth. He finishes writing his book in four days, learns to speak Italian, sleeps with the hottest chicks on the planet, vacations around the world and takes his new-found intelligence to Wall Street. Being the only man with a fully functioning brain, Eddie becomes invincible and infinitely wealthy and powerful.

Screenwriter Leslie Dixon (The Heartbreak Kid) should have taken a double-dose of NZT while adapting Limitless. The story is more jumbled than less focused than Eddie prior to being on NZT. At first, the film is about his intelligence and the power that comes with it, then it follows Eddie on his reckless thrill-seeking adventures and promiscuous escapades. As Eddie starts setting goals, Limitless randomly grows a heart as he tries to win Lindy back (although still conquering girl after girl at glitzy parties) and attempts to console Melissa over her brother’s murder. Then there’s a bit with a mob loan shark that eventually turns the movie into Wall Street with Robert De Nero (Little Fockers) playing the Gordon Gekko role. Before long, the film is no longer about Eddie’s NZT-caused powers, but about the pill itself, rarely using the powers of the pill to further the story or Eddie’s “progress.”

By the end of Limitless, you are left with a jumbled mess and a handful of unanswered plot holes that leave you disliking Eddie more than you did when the movie opened. Although the idea behind Limitless is limitless, the movie itself is not. It doesn’t go anywhere you haven’t been before. John Travolta’s Phenomenon better explores the possibilities of a fully functioning brain than Limitless – not only that but you care more for the characters and story in Phenomenon than you do Limitless.

Just like the experiences Eddie first seeks after using NZT, Limitless is a cheap thrill. You will forget about it shortly after seeing it. Reflecting on the characters and plot only causes you to discover more flaws, liking Limitless even less. If you are dying to see it, wait for Netflix. This is not one that you want to pay full price for.

Photo credit: Relativity Media / Rogue Pictures

2 out of 5

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