the hangover part ii‘s bradley cooper stars in and co-executive produces limitless, a movie adaptation of irish writer alan glynn’s 2001 debut novel the dark fields. directed by neil burger (the illusionist, the non-animated one with edward norton), it’s one of those major hollywood adult thrillers (even though it’s pg-13)* that they don’t seem to make anymore.
as with most hollywood movies, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know most of what happens in the movie. all about steve‘s bradley cooper plays unmotivated blocked writer eddie morra who sits in his apartment all day procrastinating, trying to write and drinking (really, who can relate to that? certainly not me!). he runs into his ex-brother-in-law vern (one who’s not fluent in seagalogy nor badass cinema), who gives him a soon-to-be-approved-by-the-fda pill that would allow him to access 100% of his brain instead of 20%.
as you and i would, when presented with a non-fda-approved pill in a clear plastic bag by a former brother-in-law whom we haven’t seen in years, who tells us that it’s $800 a pill, who used to be a drug dealer, taking the pill is really a…yes i’m going there…no brainer. i mean, if they are making a movie about you, you would take the pill, otherwise there will be no movie. or if you’re he’s just not that into you‘s bradley cooper, you would take a pill in every movie and hope that no tiger, baby, mike tyson, a monkey, or ken jeong shows up.
by the way, i was under the impression that we use 3% of our brain, based on defending your life. limitless says 20%. someone should look that up and let me know, or maybe you have this information in your, um, brain.
actually, before all that, limitless opens with the midnight meat train‘s bradley cooper standing on the ledge of a luxurious penthouse and then we flashes back to how he ends up there on the roof. it probably doubles as an audition tape for the crow remake.
valentine’s day‘s bradley cooper is definitely more at home playing the on-the-pill guy: the rich, cocky city slicker. the loser writer scenes always remind me of jamie kennedy in a wig. well, not everyone can pull off playing both charlie AND donald kaufman.
also in the movie is robert deniro, who points to eddie and say “you got talent, kid. follow me to the big time!” well he doesn’t literally say that. nevertheless, he is kind of the gordon gekko of limitless, except he’s only in less than five scenes. deniro, of course, pulls it off properly, and not just curl his lips and nods as in some of his post-late-90s roles.
rounding out the cast are abbie cornish (sucker punch, madonna’s golden globe winner w.e.) and anna friel (london boulevard, you will meet a tall dark stranger, will ferrell’s land of the lost). cornish plays eddie’s (ex-)girlfriend while friel plays eddie’s ex-wife. the movie didn’t pay much attention to them so i won’t either, other than to say that they are there simply as commercial elements and exposition devices.
mystery/thriller like this is often called a potboiler but i don’t think that’s the right term here. there is no sense of urgency, stake, or danger. it’s more like a potsimmerer. and the more you think about it, the more holes there are in it. for someone as “smart” as he is while on the pill, there’s no reason that he would not have paid off his loan shark. again, the loan shark has to stay throughout the movie to be the villain. there’s a nice chase scene with cornish’s character but then the movie seems to forget that she took the pill. like her character, the incident happened so the movie could have one more action scene with no rhyme or reason.
though it doesn’t entirely work as a thriller, and too nonchalant to be suspenseful, i do like the fact that on a small scale, it’s somewhat unpredictable. with such premise, it could go in the way of a modern parable, a morality tale about drugs, a conspiracy thriller, or an action chase movie, and for a while, limitless seems to be heading into all of these directions.
despite its flaws and a punchline-esque ending, burger does some amazing great-looking technical tricks throughout the movie. it’s almost like he’s bored with the plot and decided to spend time on these shots. limitless is a passable weekend popcorn movie, when you are in an undemanding mood. it probably helps that i am a sucker for those fancy big-city tall-building in-the-middle-of-crowds-and-traffic shots.