What if you could live up to your true potential? What if your brain worked at maximum efficiency? If your memory was perfect? If your every talent and ability worked at their peak?
Don't ask this movie, because it hasn't got a clue. I saw three films in a row that day; each of which featured scenes of projectile vomiting. This was one of them. Thus is defined the state of modern cinema.
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a would-be writer who is rapidly sliding into the category of never-was. That is, until he stumbles on a supply of magic, sorry, cutting-edge pills that give him special powers, sorry, enhance the synapses of his brain, allowing him to use his abilities to their fullest. So what does he do with them now that he's a superman? He finishes his book and decides to make a lot of money on the stock market. That would be a pretty thin story, so writer Leslie Dixon throws in a mysterious man with a knife and a hulking Slavic loan shark for good measure.
This film is an utter mess. First off, director Neil Burger wastes the first half of the film with an "edgy" flashback device that goes nowhere and is merely an excuse for lazy exposition via Eddie's constant narration, a laboured infinite-zoom trick, and way too much CGI work and cute camera tricks when simple story telling would suffice. I often had the impression that Burger couldn't decide which angle to shoot a particular scene from, so he chose to use all of them.
I can't imagine how the studio thought this was anything new. The premise is a pretty standard one in science fiction and has been handled many times before with far more maturity, such as in Daniel Keyes's 1958 short story "Flowers for Algernon" that formed the basis for the 1968 film Charly. Limitless, on the other hand, is a hopelessly immature effort aimed at the 18 to 26-year old market that can't imagine anything more interesting than making buckets of money and having lots of sex. Worse, the film is all over the place. One minute it's science fiction, then it's a gangster story, then it's a flashy Wall Street "show me the money" turn, then it's about drug addiction, then it's a romance, a floor wax, a dessert topping. It's fast enough paced when it moves, but when the plot bogs down, it lays there like a dead fish. Cooper has enough Charisma to sell his character, but not enough gravitas to make us believe in the premise. Meanwhile, Robert De Niro is wasted in a supporting role and female lead Abbie Cornish has the thankless task of playing a character that is shoehorned sideways into the mess. This film is so bad that the only interesting scene is the epilogue tacked on at the very end that sets up the first real conflict in the film as well as the potential of the premise–and then chucks it all straight in the bin. This scene features prominently in the trailer and when your play out is your best bit, you're in real trouble.
Perhaps Dixon and Burger should have taken a few of those magic pills before starting this film.