"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_limitlessIn the beginning of LIMITLESS, Bradley Cooper is actually pretty limited. He somehow has a contract to write a sci-fi novel, but it’s overdue and he hasn’t even started. He doesn’t seem to know how to clean his apartment or brush his hair. His ex-girlfriend (Abbey Cornish from SUCKER PUNCH) is still supporting him, but bristles at his attempts to rekindle their love. He also has an ex-wife who won’t even talk to him. At least he doesn’t have the drug problems he had back when he lost her.

Then he runs into his ex-brother-in-law/dealer on the street, reluctantly goes for a drink with him and ends up leaving with one free sample of a pill this guy claims has been approved by the FDA and will go on the market soon for $850 a pop. Supposedly we only use 20% of our brains and this unlocks our access to the rest. I’ve read that that we-only-use-part-of-our-brain thing is an urban legend, but maybe this guy just doesn’t understand how the pill works. However they do it, they unlimit you.

Anyway, he decides to throw the pill away. The end.

Nah. Of course he takes it, and the whole world changes. His awareness of his surroundings, sense of observation and memory are super-charged. He remembers everything he’s ever read or heard or seen on TV or glanced and can instantly access and make connections between all of it, like a human computer. He’s getting yelled at by his landlord’s daughter, spots the corner of a law book in her bag, next thing you know he’s charmed her, written her paper for her and knocked her boots. Then he writes his novel. And in the morning he’s a loser again.

mp_limitlessAs I’m describing this it sounds like some ’80s sex comedy. It has that sort of greedy power fantasy angle to it. He gets more pills and uses his powers to conquer the world of high finance and to have lots of sex. He gets a haircut and a closet full of expensive custom made suits, just like a yuppie would. But stylistically the movie is very of its time. There are alot of show-offy visual gimmicks that I think work really well. Lots of POV shots to show his heightened senses, vivid, saturated colors to show how different the world looks to him. There’s a trick they keep using, endless zooming into still photos. I don’t really know how to explain it but it gets you into the Limitless mindset. I would guess that director Neil Burger looked at FIGHT CLUB as one precedent for a digital age novel adaptation with lots of smart alecky first-person narration by a nobody who stumbles across the means to become a big shot in a seductive but increasingly dangerous underworld.

Oh yeah, the dangerous part. He seems ready to sponge off of the ex-brother-in-law to get more of these pills, but suddenly the guy is murdered and he runs off with a big bag of the things. Even if he’d gotten them under more savory circumstances this super genius pill thing is a Faustian bargain, so he has to deal with the various consequences. Obviously it’s addictive. Maybe not physically, but how is he not gonna want to do that every day? And then there’s the more philosophical side: is he fulfilling his potential or is he just being a phony? Which one is the real him? Is it fair that he can achieve all this because he has the pill, while others who don’t are left behind? If this is the real him shouldn’t the rest of the world get to be the real them? And then would he just be a regular schlub again by comparison? (If that ever happens, try to get into the tailoring business. Everybody seems to wear suits when they’re on this drug.)

Along with those problems there are more thriller-ish ones: stopping the drugs might kill him, other users are desperate and would kill him for his supply. I mean, he turns super-rich and powerful overnight and even gets the girl back, but it’s not all strawberries and cream and penthouses for this guy. And every pill he takes is one pill closer to running out. This is not a sustainable lifestyle.

Robert DeNiro shows up as a big time player ready to take advantage of Cooper’s investment ideas. There’s a real uncomfortable scene where they have a meeting when he’s run out of the pills and has to hide that he doesn’t know what the fuck anybody’s talking about. It’s interesting that DeNiro plays Cooper’s pops in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and that they both got nominated for Oscars for it. Maybe LIMITLESS was the dry run.

If I gotta classify this I’d say it’s a suspense thriller with sci-fi elements. But they do pepper a little action in there. When some guys attack him he flashes through memories of GAME OF DEATH, self defense videos, shit like that. Suddenly he knows how to kick ass. I wish he had a memory of CHOCOLATE, so he’d be learning to fight by remembering a movie where a girl learns to fight by remembering Tony Jaa movies.

There’s some foot chases and shit, and an insignificant little moment that made me laugh ’cause I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a movie before. He’s running out in the middle of the street and suddenly has to dodge somebody running in the other direction. Who was that?

But definitely the best action move is during the scene where Cornish has to take one of the pills in order to help him. She gets chased, and luckily must’ve seen DISTRICT B13 or something, she knows a few parkour moves. She runs out into an ice skating rink, grabs somebody’s kid and swings her around to slice her pursuer’s face with her ice skate. She uses a child as a weapon! There’s a couple moments of insanity like that in this one. I always appreciate those.

On the other hand, I think the couple gets off a little easy there after that scene. It’s very convenient that the girlfriend doesn’t want to take anymore, so she won’t also have to solve the dilemma of the rapidly diminishing supply. But also it seems like a problem that the reason she doesn’t want to do it is because she doesn’t consider it the real her. That being the case shouldn’t he be offended that she’ll only be with him after he takes the pills? As if admitting she doesn’t love the real him? I think their relationship is doomed, but it didn’t seem to me like the movie recognizes this. Oh well.

Also I’m glad he didn’t use his powers to fight crime.

Holy shit, I just looked up the writer. Leslie Dixon’s previous credits include OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE, OVERBOARD, LOVERBOY, LOOK WHO’S TALKING NOW, MRS. DOUBTFIRE, HAIRSPRAY (the musical one, obviously)… She did do the remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. Other than that there’s no precedent for her writing something kinda serious. She adapted from a novel called The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. The director, Burger, is best known for THE ILLUSIONIST, the Edward Norton magician one.

LIMITLESS is a good b-movie. Not real deep, but clever and different. And it had that ice skate bit. Even without brain pills I’m gonna try to remember that one in case I ever need it.

This entry was posted on Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 at 3:53 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

25 Responses to “Limitless”

  1. I thought the visual gimmicks (look at all the Bradleys on screen kids!!!) were tacky and unappealing and marred an otherwise very entertaining film, but I seem to be the only person on the planet who thinks that, everyone else ever seems to either love those visual or just dismiss the film altogether.

  2. I enjoyed the visual gimmicks for the most part, though the subway fight was too post-action.

    However I did enjoy when just after Cooper dives off a cliff, the narration goes “and then it just occured to me…..” about playing the stock market. If he was so unlimitless in his mental capabilities, how come an obvious idea only just occured to him after he’s already been taking the pills for a week or two? Such a dumbass line in a film about a super genius certainly has to be appreciated for its comedy value.

  3. long time reader… er… try best never to post. Anyways, compelled to chime in on the 20% of brain thing as this is pet peeve i seem to hear quarterly. It is true… in the sense that at any given time only a portion of your brain is active. However, given how your brain is organised into really, extremely specialised components, it makes no sense for most of you brain to be active at any given time. Hence, premise of this movie – and the many others that make this reference, is both false and stupid.

    That said, I want to add in a counterpoint. We don’t really understand what glia cells do yet, despite that they make up the bulk of your brain. They are much smaller than neurons and frequently ignored or discounted (… in my experience), in the form of ‘we don’t know what they do, so they can’t be important’ (generously paraphrasing). It was observed interestingly, then when discecting Einstein’s brain and comparing it with 10 other men, Einstein’s brain had one quadrant containing significantly more glial cells when compared against his counterparts. Hence, fitting area for exploration in sci-fi and arguably the urban legend, though plainly false… is not neccessarily so far from the truth.

  4. good review as always… ta… back into… lurker oblivion…

  5. my birthday today! just noticed cos of the date thingy that came up… anyways…

  6. loved this movie by the way… have watched it 5 or 6 times already. filed it with my good will huntings, rounders, phenomenon and powder types

  7. The Chinese speaking scene is legendary! Never has anyone so utterly wrong looked so smug

  8. The Original... Paul

    February 23rd, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I missed this one, and kinda regretted it because people were saying good things about it. I’ll check it out when I can get my hands on it.

  9. Liked this one. At first you think you can chart out the whole film, but then it addresses some of your looming doubts fairly early and manages to not fall into the obvious pitfalls you would expect a film like this to fall into.

    That photo zooming thing happens what, twice in the movie? No big deal. And maybe the 20% thing is bullshit, but give me a break, it’s a premise about a pill that makes you smart and motivated. Adderall that has itself taken adderall. I think we can roll with that. Interesting posts from Austr(al)ian Armageddon nonetheless.

    I feel like there was a movie in there that was way more critical of Cooper’s character. SPOILERS. I mean he has his first major blackout night and apparently kills a young woman, and there are never any repercussions for it (or feelings of remorse or ANY indication that we should give a shit). Also the last scene really struck me with how cruel he was to old Bob, they played it as Hero’s Triumph but I think it would have played better as He’s Become A Monster! /SPOILERS

  10. It was the ice skates that clinched it for me Vern! I’m putting this one on my list.

  11. the “20%” urban legend is indeed bullshit, but that said, there’s still a LOT scientists don’t understand about the brain and what exactly it’s capable of, so I can certainly still buy the premise of a “pill that makes you smarter”

    maybe the “20%” thing is just the pitch, if the guy tried to explain the real science behind what the pill does Cooper’s character would just get bored and lose interest

  12. That was still on the German pay TV circle a few weeks ago. I should have watched it, but the plot of “Bradley Cooper swallows a smarty pill” didn’t sound that interesting to me. Now I regret missing it for any reason.

  13. I guess I’m just not a fan of this Neil Burger guy. I thought The Illusionist was kinda lame, and so was this. Not horrible movies, just horribly obvious.

  14. I like it, interesting take on the Superhero genre. And you can never go wrong with chopped off hands giving you the finger.

  15. I am not ashamed to admit that I love both Overboard and Loverbou, although I probably should be. Actually, Loverboy is a variation of those 80’s great power comedies, only with pizza and prostitution.

    I just couldn’t get into Limitless because I really didn’t like Cooper’s character with or without the pill. You just wanted to smack him around.

    And Chuck did a better take on the man-with-computer-like-brain narrative.

  16. This is one of those now rare under the radar movies that doesn’t look like anything special but turns out to be kind of good. It does the job and it solves the questions of supply and addiction cleverly. It’s also interesting to remember Bradley Cooper wasn’t a star yet. It sort of looked like a movie that should have starred someone else but he was all they could get, and in turn proved he really was a star, not just that Hangover guy.

    I think in the ’80s and ’90s there we more of these solid mid level movies, making it even more rare now. Back then I would have watched this five or six times but these days I only had time the once, but I’ve kept it in my Netflix queue because I know I like it.

    Is it just me or does the trailer make it look like DeNiro invented the pill and Cooper got it from him? And why wasn’t that the plot? Cooper is the test subject and becomes more powerful than the creator.

  17. “This is one of those now rare under the radar movies that doesn’t look like anything special but turns out to be kind of good.”

    yeah, it makes me wonder if the script for this has been floating around for years because really does almost never make movies like this anymore

    these days if a movie is not good or great then it’s more than likely flat out awful and not even worth a second glance, what happened to the days of solid movies that are worth watching if not spectacular?

    take the recent Dark Skies, there’s a waste of a potentially interesting premise, had the movie been made in the 80’s or 90’s it probably would have been worth checking out, but now? forget about it

  18. When I saw the trailer for DARK SKIES, I confused it for NIGHT SKIES, which was the name of a screenplay that Steven Spielberg commissioned John Sayles to write about aliens terrorizing a suburban home. Spielberg eventually ditched the horror angle and made a movie about a friendly alien named E.T. instead. Because I’m such a fan of Sayles’ genre scripts, I’d hoped that somebody had decided to go back to the drawing board and film his original screenplay, but no. They just subbed out aliens for ghosts and made EXTRATERRESTRIAL ACTIVITY. Yawn.

  19. It’s scary how much cooper looks like me in that still. Like, if you showed it to me and I were a bit drunk, I might think it WAS me.

  20. The screenwriter on this bought the book rights and developed it on his/her own because no one at the studios would trust him/her to make this kinda thing. Big gamble. Paid off.

  21. Griff, I would argue that Steve Soderbergh still makes those sort of solid-but-not-great films you are talking about. (or “made”, since he’s apparently retired now). I enjoyed SIDE EFFECTS quite a bit.

  22. I should probably see this movie as I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of “super-intelligence” and how to represent it in fiction. The plot to LIMITLESS sounds a lot like a sci-fi short story by Ted Chiang called “Understand”.

  23. It’s probably not fair to do this, but the movie that I compared LIMITLESS to while I was watching it was LOLA RENNT (RUN LOLA RUN). Obviously it came up lacking, particularly in terms of the structure and thematical development of the film. LIMITLESS seems pretty hidebound in comparison.

    I didn’t actually think too highly of LOLA RENNT when it first came out, but time has shown it has more heart and ingenuity than I initially gave it credit for.

  24. I just caught this when I was going to bed and watched it to the end, even though I’d read the script a while back. I thought Burger did a pretty good job, though they’re were a couple of small things that niggled at me. The random blond’s death (was she supposed to be connected to another subplot) and how it was never mentioned again… And what, the police pick up a guy at a murder scene and don’t even frisk him? Also, that ending was a bit of a cop-out; the moral implications of the pill were becoming the most interesting part of the film and they just breezed over it.

    Also: MAXIAO! Was the mandarin he was saying in the last shot absolute nonsense? I had no subtitles on the version I watched. Dunno’ if that would make it a better or worse ending.

    I was entertained, though. The ice skates bit was funny. Like she was looking at all these possible weapons and THAT was the best option.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>