Dir.: Neil Burger
With: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro.
Bradley Cooper has a lot riding on this film. “Limitless” is essentially his first foray into the Hollywood A-list leading-man territory. It is his first attempt at showing that he can be more than the likable but jerky boy-man we’ve grown accustomed to from “The Hangover” and “The Wedding Crashers”. He also gets his first executive producer credits here, which makes many aspects of this thriller oh-so more understandable. Basically, a lot of first-times for Mr Cooper, an eloquent, Georgetown-educated Italian-Irish American and an ex-Discovery Channel presenter.
He has clearly picked out his first big film very carefully – “Limitless” sounds great on paper – an unsuccessful and depressed writer tries a new drug that enables him to use his entire brain’s potential but doesn’t ask himself what its side effects are. I don’t know what the budget was for this, but it was obviously very high, the movie looks robust, slick and, well, expensive. And judging by the creative adverts that appeared on the London tube prior to the film’s premiere, someone has put much thought into its promotion. It is a huge shame that the good things about it end here. The plot is literally all over the place, certain subplots are never concluded or explained and some characters pop in and out of it without much logic behind their appearances. The film is full of clichés, there are scenes in it where you’d think the supporting cast must have all come out from a ‘Sylvester Stallone acting school’ – yes, their attempts at portraying credible emotions are that bad. It has the makings of a good film that tried to do too much and went off the rails towards the end.
Robert De Niro’s casting in "Limitless" seems like a calculated ploy to get more audiences into the cinemas, he hasn’t much onscreen time and when he does, he doesn’t really do much but frown and look at his phone/watch/Bradley Cooper. However, in my opinion, Bradley Cooper has shown that he can carry off a film on his own, the mixture of his quite handsome but also strange looks makes him appealing and entertaining to watch and gives him the airs of being just above the average. His character teeters on the brink of being likable and dislikeable and Cooper has achieved this quite well. There is one scene in particular where he contemplates drinking someone’s blood (no, I definitely wasn’t watching Twilight) in order to stay alive and there is something really animalistic, desperate and quite revolting written in his otherwise groomed face and creepily azure eyes.
At the same time, "Limitless" does manage to address some interesting themes. It draws a picture of a modern world where people in developed countries are given many opportunities to excel, but the way they use these opportunities makes them none the wiser; the protagonist’s shallowness and the previously-unknown greed manifest themselves in his first actions post pill-taking; he gets a haircut, new wardrobe and works out at the gym. As if a person who really did become thousands times more intelligent would really care about what his abs looked like. His so-called newly acquired cultural tastes are used purely to get more beautiful women in bed. His girlfriend, who was supposed to be the good moral person in the film, disappointingly ends up going back to the perfected, albeit freakishly confident and calculating version of him. Neither he nor she can resist the glossy life his unreliable new skillz have presented them with and it really does not say much good about the couple. The ending of the film just confirms the bleak and cynical view on modern values as perceived by the makers of the movie.
And to end this, how it all began – Bradley Cooper, the actor-student, asks Sean Penn a question Inside the Actor’s Studio.