Review: Limitless (2011)

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Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro

The amount of puns I could use to describe the many (many) qualms I had with Neil Burger’s latest filmic opus would be, well, limitless. With such hatred constantly lingering at the forefront of my mind, one can only imagine how equally schlocky and thoroughly unenjoyable the source material is. Given Hollywood’s track record in relation to such a statement, I’m going to at least give credit where credit’s due and assume the aforementioned material is slightly more competent in conveying at least some semblance of thematic importance and, overall, a general sense of entertainment.

Limitless starts out promisingly enough, exhibiting an intelligible visual flair that quickly grows tiresome and obviously fails in filling in most of the script’s cavernous gaps in logic. I didn’t expect a plausible thriller by any means; I certainly knew what I was getting myself into, it’s just that basing an entire film around the effects of a pill that turns ordinary people into intellectual dynamos can only hold one’s attention for so long before driving them insane as each predictable twist and turn goes off without a hitch.

Hyperbole aside, Limitless has an obvious tendency to introduce and just as quickly exclude viable plot components and previously important central characters. For all those who aren’t concerned with where these individuals go and why their sudden reappearance has such a detrimental effect on Eddie’s life at the drop of a hat, the film is essentially a one trick pony, using the pill NZT as its centerpiece and allowing that same pill to shape any and every event that takes place throughout its achingly overlong run time. Take the pill? You’re golden. Attempt to wean yourself off of it? You go through withdrawal just like a typical addict would but with increasingly awful side effects, the most notable of which is imminent death. Interesting? For about five minutes, and other things do happen, it’s just a shame that everything is negligible in the wake of a script’s inability to make us care for anyone or anything in light of what it (almost) manages to do right in delivering a shallow, mostly mindless and forgettable thriller.

Bradley Cooper as Limitless‘ lead is charismatic enough to the point where watching the film doesn’t become a complete chore. Even if all his character’s naivity and poor life trajectory make him almost entirely unlikable, you can care about him enough to use his plight as a crutch to get you through Limitless‘ rougher patches, which I assure you are aplenty. Robert De Niro less than admirably continues his streak of forgettable supporting roles, and female costar Abbie Cornish gives it her all as Cooper’s estranged on-again-off-again girlfriend, yet her character Lindy’s involvement is just too unimportant to allow me to give a damn. As for the rest of the gang, they’re mostly just there in an attempt to bring cohesion to an admittedly scatterbrained narrative, and frankly, I could have done without a lot of what they had to offer.

As a resounding failure, Limitless triumphs endlessly. With virtually nothing going for it outside of the one plot strand that offers very little thematically, Neil Burger’s latest is nothing short of a proverbial “all flash, no substance” pseudo-thriller that doesn’t quite accomplish whatever it was trying to in the first place. Bradley Cooper is amiable enough, and some eye candy coupled with sporadic, appropriate instances of tension help partially break the tedium that makes Limitless borderline unbearable in comparison to other films of its type. The premise itself may be original enough and intriguing to boot, but Burger’s execution is entirely too off target to deliver much else in the realm of quality entertainment.

Rating: 3/10

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2 comments on “Review: Limitless (2011)

  1. Tom Stoup says:

    Great write-up. Sounds like exactly what I feared about the movie is indeed the case. Too bad, the subject matter has so much potential. Just… not as a Bradley Cooper thriller directed by Neil Burger.

    • afilmodyssey says:

      Thanks for the read as always, and I completely agree. The material wasn’t handled deftly enough to pique viewers’ interests, providing what they were looking for was something other than just “GIMME DAT DRUG!” and a lukewarm cautionary thriller about never taking the easy way out. A huge disappointment in so many ways.

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