Now available on DVD, “Limitless” categorizes itself as a “scifi thriller,” but that doesn’t quite describe it. There’s fantasy, all right, and a thrill or two. However, the emphasis is more on psychology than “action,” and that constitutes the film’s appeal. The point of view stays with one character, who embodies the movie’s theme: if we somehow utilize all of our mind’s capacity, our power and potential would be, well, without limits.
Bradley Cooper plays one Eddie Morra—yes, the name is meaningful, if not exactly subtle—a stalled writer who has busted out of one marriage and is on the verge of losing his current girlfriend, Lindy (Abby Cornish). She’s an upwardly mobile editor who rightly sees it’s time to abandon Eddie and his excuses for failure. But even her leaving can’t jolt Eddie to get his mind on his novel.
As luck would have it, Eddie runs into his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who appears to have made it big. Vern confides that he owes his success to a new drug, NZT, which frees up the mind to realize its full potential. Reluctantly accepting a sample, Eddie discovers the he can write like a champ, apparently finding the magic elixir. He also decides to clean up his apartment and his life, cinematographer Jo Willems giving new meaning to “multi-tasking” by showing multiple Eddies at work simultaneously, here and often when Eddie’s tripping.
Alas, there’s a downside, as Eddie discovers when he finds Vern with a bullet through his head. Luckily (?), he sniffs out Vern’s stash of the wonder drug, and it’s off to the races. Finishing the book, Eddie soon gets into playing the stock market, where he’s an overnight smash hit. (This might be a cautionary tale for day traders.) He attracts the attention of a big-time executive, played somewhat left-handedly by Robert DeNiro, who tests Eddie’s savvy and is satisfied enough to let him in on a merger that will make Eddie a multi-millionaire and, more than likely, get him his girl back.
Meantime, though, various tough guys are tracking our hero around New York, pretty clearly knowing about his NZT hoard and wanting a share of the action. As they close in on him, Eddie has to figure a way to weasel out, save his life, and make good on his ambitions. Director Neil Burger and screenwriter Leslie Dixon set up some hopeless situations, then cleverly, albeit incredibly, pull the string, allowing Eddie to escape. And the conclusion runs almost entirely counter to the expected “moral” ending.
“Limitless” is rated “PG-13” for violence, language, and some sexuality—oh, yeah, and constant drug use. It’s a rather slowly paced movie, in any case, one that will likely not appeal to teens. Adults might find the concept intriguing, the visuals worth watching, and Cooper’s acting capable enough, if not award-winning.