Paranoia and endangerment, with a few requisite chase scenes, characterize a third element to the film’s story, but the film never makes us care deeply about threats to Eddie. We know from the film’s first few minutes that Eddie’s story will be told mostly in flashback, until it circles back to that opening scene on the balcony. From there, Eddie’s fate is a question mark, but by then the story has spread itself a bit thin, lessening our investment in Eddie’s well-being. We don’t wish him ill, but he’s not particularly upstanding or a victim of circumstances beyond his control.

Limitless works best early, when it concentrates on Eddie’s drug-fueled professional and personal revival. We can see the excesses that will come back to haunt him. There’s nothing new to that arc, although Cooper’s performance—including his voiceover—draws us in quickly. If there’s a disappointing aspect to Eddie’s renaissance, it’s that director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) visualizes Eddie’s NZT-enhanced view of the world through tired devices such as yellow filters and a few distorted lenses. That makes it hard to believe, from what we see through Eddie’s eyes, that NZT taps into anything beyond the standard hallucinogenic powers of other drug trips visualized more potently in earlier films.

Also buckling under the weight of the story’s different emphases is Eddie’s romance with Lindy. She leaves him, then comes back later, after Eddie has become successful. She gets drawn into Eddie’s NZT dealing, apparently for the purpose of being placed in danger. In the film’s most preposterous scene, she fends off a knife-wielding man by swinging a small child at her pursuer. With that, she serves her character’s purpose.

As a launching pad for Bradley Cooper as a leading man, Limitless shows promise. Eddie’s character isn’t written in a way that makes us care deeply about him, but Cooper’s magnetism and appeal are undeniable. Future roles will tell the tale of whether Limitless was the launching pad for a successful career as a top-billed actor, but the film does confirm the comeback of De Niro, who, until Stone, hadn’t given many memorable performances in recent years.

Although Limitless has its limits as compelling storytelling, it also offers lessons about the downside of drug addiction and the price of short-term gains that come with long-term costs. Those lessons come wrapped in a PG-13-rated package that includes scenes of drug use, sexuality and violence. Read the “Cautions” section below for more details, and make sure you know your own limits before seeing Limitless.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: “Oh, my God”; “a-s”; “holy s-it”; “sh-tty”; “Jesus”; the “f”-word; “p-ss”; “b-tch.”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Eddie and Vernon go for a drink at 2 in the afternoon; Eddie steals Percocet; Eddie says he hasn’t had a cigarette for six hours; Vern drinks.
  • Sex/Nudity: Man on toilet; sex is heard more than once, but only feet and legs are shown; Lindy is shown in bed, in night clothes, talking to Eddie, who’s at the window; a woman takes Eddie to a room, kisses him and pulls him on to a bed; kissing.
  • Violence/Crime: Dead bodies lay on the floor; a man prepares to jump from a high ledge; vomiting; a dead man has a bullet wound in his head and blood on his face and chest; a thug threatens a grisly death for Eddie; Eddie fights off a gang of thugs; a woman is murdered; car accident; two men are stabbed and Lindy is stalked by a killer; severed hands shown, once with a middle finger extended; Eddie licks another man’s blood as it pools on the floor; a needle pushed into a man’s eye; TV set slammed into a man; gun shots; a man pushed through a large glass window; a man is bound and has mouth taped shut.
  • Religion/Morals: Reference to an earlier marriage; man said he walked out on his wife; Eddie and Lindy live together; a man says, “I was blind but now I see”; a reference to someone being “a prophet of our times” and “God.”

 

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.