LIMITLESS directed by Neil Burger – with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro – Movie Review

by Kevin Bowen on March 18, 2011

in Film

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BRADLEY COOPER LEAPS FROM DULL HEARTTHROB TO ENGAGING ACTOR

Has there been some secret value to a flipped-out Charlie Sheen declaring himself the Nietzschean Ubermensch, living by a porn star code that mere mortals could only hope to appreciate?

I would say yes. In his little henpecked heart, every man would love to stand on top of a building waving a machete against the world. The cubicle chorus of a billion Internet clicks equates to an army of sad Dilberts who are mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore, even if they feel that they have to.

This outlaw fantasy plays out splendidly in Neil Burger’s Limitless. A former in-law gets slacker writer Bradley Cooper hooked on a steroid for the mind. It’s the best drug he has ever taken, giving him super-smarts, perfect recall, tiger blood, and Adonis DNA.  Rather than waste his sudden greatness on rooftop machetes, he makes better use of his energy – conquering the stock market and becoming the hotshot deputy of investment banker Robert DeNiro. But success is never an orphan. He attracts an unwanted following of strangers, crooks, and corpses.

Limitless begins with Bradley Cooper contemplating a leap from the penthouse of a high-rise apartment building. Based on previous experience, I might have considered this the perfect beginning to a movie. Fortunately, Cooper sticks around and proves me wrong. Too often he has fallen too easily in relying on Adonis DNA and hanging out in the heartthrob category. Here, he’s an inviting lift to Burger’s trippy direction and script (no one speaks that way, but everyone wishes they could speak that way.).

Burger – whose The Illusionist was a surprise 2006 hit – emulates the shape and vim of Darren Aronofksy’s early druggy films. With Pi, it shares the central conceit of characters searching for mathematical routes to perfection. With Requiem for a Dream, it shares the junkie fantasy of ecstasy.

However, the overreach of Aronofsky’s Icaruses always anticipates their eventual falls. Instead, Burger tries something different, bordering on innovative. Its faux optimistic ending seems like a comment on the steroid era of American life.  It leaves us with both the exhilaration of a man beating the machine and the uncomfortable suspicion that all success is creepily artificial.  Winning!

kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com

Limitless
rated PG-13
now playing nationwide

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gregory Renstrom March 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm

The article is right on! the film and the team of people who created this film are noithing short of amazing~! Their effort produced a quality movie viewing experience! Great Article!

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Gregory Renstrom March 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm

The film made me do a study on noottropics and smart drugs which is a huge market for the future. This movie is not just fiction!

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