Limitless, opening today, has a great hook of a premise: what if, out of nowhere, you were able to live up to your full potential? What if you could move beyond your goals and become someone so smarter than regular human chemistry allowed? All of the sudden, you know how to trade on Wall Street, and everyday you’re basically writing checks to yourself.
Limitless stars The Hangover benefactor Bradley Cooper as Eddie, a would-be novelist obstructed by both Writer’s Block and a general life that doesn’t seem to be going much of anywhere. That changes when chance lands him a small stash of unexplained super-pills that lets his brain work at “full capacity,” taking his mind places few have ever been to.
As a world class slacker, this premise is practically pornography to me. So naturally, thie movie’s going to interest me – just the wish fulfillment aspect of seeing a guy able to make the world his own is enough to keep me watching and participating.
But a good premise isn’t necessarily a great film – you have to take your character and your story somewhere beyond where it starts. Hence, this miracle drug at the center of Limitless has its drawbacks – once you’re addicted, going off leads to memory blackouts. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem if Eddie didn’t have finite supply of the stuff, but the fact is he can’t even figure out where the stuff comes from.
This development feels a little tacked on, like it’s just the follow-up to the pitch of the story. It had to go somewhere, and Limitless follows a standard trajectory into action set pieces that are tense, but never so combat-oriented as to betray the film it begins as. But, save for a fun, lightly dystopic epilogue of a final scene, none of it feels very inspired – It’s very in and out.
Maybe I’d be more forgiving if half of the ratcheting complications the plot gives way to weren’t predicated by a very, very stupid mistake from a guy that’s supposed to have, as he claims, a four-digit I.Q. But it happens, without an explanation or even an excuse, and suddenly a Russian gangster starts making Eddie’s life Hell.
It might not do a lot with its story, but Limitless still works as fun escape into an original, light sci-fi premise. Just because it’s not fully engaging on the whole doesn’t mean I’m putting of work imagining how much I’d get done if I only had wonderful drugs. . .