“I don’t have delusions of grandeur,” brags Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), the brash hero of Limitless. “I have a recipe for grandeur.” Actually, what Eddie has is a big stash of translucent pills — a new drug called NZT-48, not yet approved by the FDA — that allows users to access 100 percent of their brains instead of the often-quoted (and mythical) 10 percent. This means that Eddie, formerly a shambling novelist with terminal writer’s block, can now write a book in four days; learn to play the piano in three; pick up languages just from hearing someone speak and even perform some ferocious kung-fu by drawing on his memories of Bruce Lee movies.
Such a pill, if it existed, would be the miracle drug everybody wanted, and Eddie, who got his supply from his late brother-in-law, soon discovers he’s not the only junkie desperately hooked on NZT. What’s worse, the more pills Eddie pops, the greater the side effects — including, but not limited to, an extended blackout during which he may have murdered a woman.
Based on a novel by Alan Glynn and directed with much flash and style by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), Limitless is an exceptionally busy movie. In addition to its various action and thriller plotlines, the film must make time for Eddie’s reconciliation with his ex-girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) and his partnership with a tycoon (a wasted Robert De Niro) who wants to harness the egghead’s brain waves for profit. Eddie becomes so smart that he starts to predict the future — a handy skill for Gordon Gekko or the X-Men but another instance in which this movie about super-intelligence makes no sense whatsoever.
The story moves as quickly as the brainiac hero, whose new power demands that he remain in a state of perpetual activity or explode (figuratively). To convey the speed of Eddie’s thoughts, Burger employs a slew of nifty special effects, including a new kind of zoom shot that covers miles of Manhattan in a single, breathtaking rush. But for all its peripatetic energy, Limitless still winds up with the same-old blazing guns and wanton destruction of property. No matter how smart you may be, Hollywood will figure out a way to dumb you down.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth.
Director: Neil Burger.
Screenwriter: Leslie Dixon. Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn.
Producers: Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh, Scott Kroopf.
A Relativity Media release. Running time: 105 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, violence, gore, adult themes. Opens Friday March 18 at area theaters.