Druggy visual effects propel this thriller starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
Director: Neil Burger Rating: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
What if a pill could make you a rich and powerful baller almost overnight? That is the intoxicating premise of this addictive, fast-paced thriller based on Alan Glynn’s book The Dark Fields that makes it more difficult than ever to “just say no” to drugs.
Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Morra, a New York City writer who has missed the deadline on his new book, recently got dumped by his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish) and is listlessly treading water as his life drifts by. He randomly bumps into his former brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) and starts doing errands for him. Vernon gives Eddie a sample of the new smart drug NZT-48, which helps him finish his book in no time by allowing him to use 100 percent of his brain at one time instead of the normal 20 percent.
Eddie’s life descends into a bad trip when he comes back from an errand and finds Vernon dead. He suspects that whoever killed Vernon was looking for his stash of NZT, which Eddie searches for and finds. He then starts gobbling the clear pills like M&M’s and uses the extra brain power to turn his life around—he starts trading stocks, learns foreign languages, makes an incredible amount of cash fast and becomes employed by powerful businessman Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro). As with any drug, you can’t have this kind of high without lows, and Eddie discovers that side effects of not taking NZT—loss of time, severe hangover symptoms and heart palpitations—keep him hooked. What’s worse is that a Russian thug that he borrowed capital from is also threatening his life and if Eddie doesn’t find a way off the stuff soon, it will kill him.
It is fun to watch Cooper—who we know can make us LOL often in movies like The Hangover—believably transition from a disheveled, burnt-out writer into a suave Wall Street playboy with the pop of a pill. The druggy visual effects used by director Neil Burger are inventive and thematic, and they propel this thriller along at an appropriately cracked-out pace. The movie isn’t preachy about drug use and doesn’t descend into some Nancy Reagan-sanctioned message about substance abuse, but it does challenge you to think about what you would do if offered a seemingly magic pill. For Cooper and viewers, it’s a different kind of movie hangover that substitutes laughs with altered-state action.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain an unrated, extended cut of the movie in addition to the theatrical version, plus commentary by Burger, “A Man Without Limits,” “Taking It to the Limit: The Making of Limitless” and an alternate ending.