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A Fun Drug-Induced Ride

Ratin: 3 out of 5 stars.

Who hasn’t pondered the idea (however fleetingly) that you’re not quite living up to your potential? What if there was a way to truly live up to your potential and be the smartest, sexiest version of you? In Neil Burger’s Limitless we are presented with a purported answer to these questions in the form of a tiny pill called NZT.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a would-be writer whose gift lies less with the written word and more with the bottle and procrastination. It’s not entirely his fault as every writer now and again suffers from writer’s block. Eddie seemingly has a terminal case or he simply isn’t a good writer (a distinct possibility). To boot, Eddie lives in a hovel, dresses like an aimless vagabond, and was just dumped by his girlfriend.

A chance encounter with his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon, (Johnny Whitworth) who gives him a small dose of NZT breaks Eddie out of his funk in short order. Eddie knocks out 90 quality pages and his agent is blown away by the quality of what he’s penned. Somehow in the midst of this creative outburst, Eddie also manages to bed his landlord’s wife. NZT is for real and is Eddie is hooked.

A newly anointed NZT-head, Eddie seeks out his Vernon for another hit and stumbles onto a hit of a decidedly different kind. Vernon has been knocked off and his apartment has been looted. Clearly, Eddie’s not the only one looking for a fix. Fortunately, Eddie manages to find Vernon’s secret stash and thus begins Eddie’s glorious NZT inspired ascent.

Bradley Cooper does a very solid job of playing the down and out Eddie and the suave (if not smarmy) Eddie on NZT. We’ve typically seen Bradley portray characters embodying the latter, but Limitless provides a nice opportunity for Bradley to show a little range and he pulls it off rather convincingly. Eddie’s a bit misguided (and perhaps a bit of a loser), but he’s not a bad guy. Bradley performs ably as the lead in this one.

Cooper is fortunate to have a solid wingman in Robert DeNiro who plays the Trump inspired Carl Van Loon. While on NZT, Eddie exhibits an astonishing ability to read the stock market and naturally attracts the attention of Van Loon. DeNiro complements Cooper well as an old lion who may lack Eddie’s natural “gifts,” but has experience well beyond that of Eddie.

By and large, Limitless is a solidly entertaining sci-fi inspired thriller. But, there are a few problems with the film that are hard to ignore. For starters, Eddie makes some pretty dumb decisions amidst his NZT inspired brilliance. This problem is somewhat easy to forgive, as Limitless would be quite boring if Eddie effectively became an omnipotent deity while on NZT.

Less easy to forgive is the ambivalence director Neil Burger (and possibly screenwriter Leslie Dixon) seems to have toward NZT. Sometimes the drug is positioned as a true panacea. Other times, NZT is positioned as something as dangerous/deadly as crystal meth. Ultimately, you’re left wondering what is the real message Limitless is trying to convey. But, it’s still generally a fun ride.