Limitless a fun cinematic trip with a mind-altering wonder drug
Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro lock horns in this entertaining action thriller
Limitless should come subtitled ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ as struggling writer Eddie (Bradley Cooper) dives headlong down the rabbit hole as he becomes hooked on NZT, an IQ-enhancing wonder drug that transforms you into the best possible version of yourself. Aimlessly drifting through his life, a chance encounter with his ex-wife’s brother (Johnny Whitworth) leads him into murky waters with the sales pitch of: ‘You know how they say that we can only access 20% of our brain? This lets you access all of it.’
Soon Eddie is wolfing down NZT, writing his novel in four days, learning multiple languages and living the high life. Every piece of information he’s ever seen or heard is suddenly instantly accessible. He can fight like Bruce Lee from half-remembered kung fu films, and make millions spotting patterns in the stock exchange. He comes to the attention of vaguely threatening businessman Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who gurns with appropriate menace. Then there’s the crippling come down - the blackouts, the memory loss and the paranoia - as gangsters, the police and corporate sharks all start to circle.
Anna Friel briefly crops up as the ex-wife; Abbie Cornish, as the long-suffering girlfriend, seems to drift in and out as the story necessitates, giving Cooper’s Eddie plenty of time to indulge in partying, women and general gallivanting. There’s a stupid subplot about eastern European gangsters that outstays its welcome and becomes far too integral to the plot, plus a possible murder that seems to get lost in the shuffle. It’s all just a bit silly, but undeniably entertaining, with a brisk and breezy attitude to recreational drugs that’s cheeky rather than subversive. Director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) has some visual fun with rushing cameras and vivid colourisation to represent the NZT experience, but the main thing Limitless has in it’s favour is Cooper - he’s a very likable chap, and even when he’s being a jerk, you still find yourself on his side. The end is far too neat, but only a temperance advocate would deny they enjoyed the trip.
Out now on general release. Thanks to Cineworld Fountainbridge, Edinburgh.