Three movies came out last week and I only had time to see two. Naturally, the one I missed was #1 at the box office. As my desire in life is to always be on the cutting edge of last week, I went to see Limitless.
The best thing I can say about Limitless is that it's bad in a bland, conventional way, not the infuriating way in which Sucker Punch was bad. The acting provided some bright spots but otherwise it was just dumb and dull piece of lame science fiction.
Bradley Cooper is pretty good as Eddie Morra, a slacker in every sense of the word. When the movie opens, he has a lot of stuff he really shouldn't have. He has these things because they were granted unto him by the godlike powers of the screenwriters and they only did that so they could take those things away. He's losing his hot girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish who was also in Sucker Punch because all he ever does is bitch about how he does nothing. He's also about to lose his book contract which he somehow got despite not having written a word ever because he still hasn't written a word since landing the contract. He's as down and out as down and out can be but, before he can comfortably settle into a future of flipping burgers and getting high, he runs into Vernon, his brother-in-law from a previous marriage. Vernon used to be just like him but now he's all cleaned up and wearing expensive suits. How'd that happen? Turns out is was because of some pill that turns on certain chemical receptors in the brain. Vernon insists it's FDA approved. It turns out that Vernon really likes to lie but Eddie didn't know that when he took the pill.
Suddenly, Eddie is a genius. He now has laser like focus, can recall any fact he's ever learned at any point in his life and can quickly form ingenious plans both short term and long and solve all the problems in his life. He finishes his book in four days and starts making gobs of cash at the stock market. He even manages to get Lindy back. Only problem is that the pills wear off. When he goes to Vernon to get more, he finds Vernon dead but he also finds a huge stockpile of the pills. I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense up to this point. Then this supposed genius decides to borrow $100,000 from the Russian mob to invest despite the fact that he doubles his money every day and would have that much if he just waited a week. Then he gets mixed up with a ruthless financier named Carl van Loon (played by promising newcomer named Robert De Niro). Despite the fact that he can't fail at the market, he takes a job picking stocks for van Loon instead. Why? Because if he hadn't done any of these things, he'd have no problems. Well, turns out the pills can cause memory gaps and he may have committed a murder. (Spoiler alert at the bottom*) He'd stop taking them because of this but it turns out that this will cause life threatening withdrawal symptoms. But, in addition to all that, he now must also deal with crazy Russians who could kill him and a rich guy who could ruin his life in various other ways.
And that's just the plot. One of the first things I did when the movie was over was check to see if this was director Neil Burger's first movie. Turns out it's his fourth. The reason I thought this is because it's not uncommon for new directors to take every trick they learned in film school and toss them on the screen whether they were needed or not. Shift everything so the shot is now upside down? Sure. Show the same character in several spots at the same time? Why not. Zoom the camera into a mirror so you're closing in on the same image over and over. Go for it. It's annoying and distracting and shows why film schools should be required to teach a class called Less Is More 101.
Cooper, De Niro and the rest of the cast do just fine with what they're given and it starts as an interesting idea but that's where the compliments end. What this movie really needed were limits and yes, I know that's a lame joke but it's about the same level of joke you might hear in the movie so I thought it was one that should be used here.
*SPOILER ALERT: That stupid murder never does get solved. He may have brought a woman back to her home and killed her without realizing. The police suspect him but it never gets past that. This is one of the reasons I call the movie dumb.