What would you give to be brilliant? Charismatic, dynamic, sexy – the perfect you?
That’s the question posed by Limitless, an enjoyable ‘What If’ thriller where a black-market ‘smart’ pill enables users to access the 80 per cent of their brain usually off limits. Bradley Cooper headlines as scraggy would-be author Eddie Morra.
Dumped by his girlfriend, stumped by his book and sporting one terrible barnet, Morra’s going nowhere until a single hit of experimental ‘NTZ’ gives him a life-changing makeover. But these things always come at a price…
Limitless sticks to a somewhat, well, limited ‘be careful what you wish for’ formula that falls between fantasy-fulfillers The Craft and The Mask and rule-breaking real-lifers Rogue Trader and 21.
Yet Leslie Dixon’s screenplay (based on Alan Glynn’s novel) elevates itself by being a dab naughtier, a sniff more morally dubious.
At its best, it’s an energetic satire of cocaine city-boys thrust to the top, doing whatever it takes to maintain the platinum lifestyle; like a really good episode of The Apprentice, where everyone’s gorgeous and coked off their nuts.
Director Neil Burger flaunts flair, with bursts of stylised Escher-esque camerawork (dig those speeding super-zooms), saturated colour and a euphoric soundtrack.
The party scenes exhilarate: Cooper, wired to the eyeballs, charms his way from restaurant to bar, club to hotel, the people and places passing faster, more frenetic… until finally he wakes, bloody-nosed and lost, miles from home with no clue as to how he got there.
Shame, then, that elation, wit and humour make way for a second-half dip that bogs down in generic addictioncum- conspiracy intrigue.
Cooper is believable as the wastrel artist, perfect as the up-and-comer turned wanker but not quite as credible as a man on the edge. Robert De Niro is solid but hardly on vintage form in a support role as the business brain drawn to Morra’s flame.
Biggest disappointment, though, is the female roles. Abbie Cornish is neglected as Cooper’s on-off girlfriend while Anna Friel, going fullon fugly as Morra’s ex, is all too underused.
Limitless is a fine night out, but like the very best parties, the shine wears off when it’s over, leaving you rubbing your head and wondering why big chunks of the evening make no sense at all. It’s one of those fun experiences that don’t stand up to scrutiny.
If people on average use only 20 per cent of their brain’s capacity, for Limitless that’s plenty.
Drug addiction’s a blast in this slick brain-fable. Beware though: plot holes and underdeveloped characters could leave you with a comedown.