105 min., rated PG-13.
Ya know how they say we access only 20 percent of our brain? "Limitless" entertains the idea that one clear little pill lets you access all of it. Also, Bradley Cooper proves he can be more accessible than the fratboy type, still commanding the screen while flashing that sexy smirk.
In this slick, snappy hedonistic-thriller, Cooper stars as Eddie Morra, a schleppy, broke, heavy-drinking New York writer who's creatively blocked from writing his manuscript and then dumped by his successful editor girlfriend (Abbie Cornish). His luck changes when he runs into his ex-brother-in-law (Johnny Whitworth), who introduces him to a sample pharmaceutical drug called NZT. Supposedly FDA-approved, it enchances the brain. After taking one, he becomes more motivated and focused. Not only that, but Eddie finishes his book in four days, becomes fluent in foreign languages, and soon his knowledge about everything and new groomed makeover allow him to bed women. Eddie's a super freak, flying high on NZT, until Russian goons come knocking and he captures too much attention at a trading firm.
Director Neil Burger gives this intriguing pill of an idea, based on Alan Glynn's 2001 novel called "The Dark Fields," an adrenaline kick with lots of propulsive visual panache. That's for sure up front from the cool, dazzling opening credits sequence (a single, sped-up shot zooming through the Manhattan streets) and a drug-trippy style. Cooper has the tan, cocky leer of Matthew McConaughey but way more charisma and intensity. Abbie Cornish is also good but underused as Eddie's on-again, off-again girlfriend Lindy, who kicks ass when she takes the drug. In a supporting role, Robert De Niro is snaky and formidable as business mogul Carl Van Loon (what a name) who becomes fascinated with Eddie.
Leslie Dixon's screenplay does have its limits—introducing a possible murder and a merger but never going anywhere with them—but the getting-there is what's addictive that you'll want a taste of what Eddie's having. "Limitless" could've been deeper than just shallow entertainment, but at least it gives you a fun time, especially if you let your brain accept it 100 percent.