‘Limitless’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated October 5th, 2011 at 5:25 pm,

limitless review Limitless Review
Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews Limitless

Limitless wasn’t quite what I expected – but that’s OK. Actually I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was more of a popcorn movie than a “serious” action film – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The roguishly handsome Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a self-proclaimed writer who has yet to, you know… actually WRITE anything. He’s got ultimate writer’s block – can’t even get the first word of his novel typed on the computer. He looks like a homeless guy and has been dumped by his got-her-stuff-together (not in a bad way) girlfriend. Eddie isn’t too happy with himself, and in a moment of honesty admits to someone he hasn’t seen in a very long time that things aren’t going well in his life.

Well this friend has just what the doctor ordered in the way of a new pill that allows people at access 100% of their brain (as opposed to 20%, even though I’ve always heard it stated as 10%). Eddie is skeptical at first but figures he has nothing to lose – and when he takes the pill the results are nothing short of a revelation. It’s like he’s been seeing things through a fog and now a bright light is being shined on the world around him with everything in super-sharp focus. He can recall EVERYTHING he’s ever seen or learned instantly and process it as needed.

The scene in which this first happens is done very well, with director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) effectively putting us in Eddie’s place not only experiencing the revelation of what’s happening but the process of him putting everything together on the fly, smoothly and seamlessly. Burger does a lot of interesting stuff in the film – some might call it gimmicky. The creative visual effects combined with Bradley Cooper’s voice over had me thinking a lot about David Fincher’s Fight Club. This film isn’t anywhere close to that as far as depth of character and story – but it felt like…. “Fight Club Lite.” And I don’t mean that in a negative way.

We get to go along for the exhilarating ride for a while, but soon things get ugly and it becomes clear that other people not only know about this drug, but will stop at nothing to get it. Eddie secures a finite supply and commences transforming his life on turbo charge. As you can imagine, in addition to the fact there are others who want the drug, the benefits don’t come without a down side.

The film rests almost completely on the shoulders of Bradley Cooper and his charm, and he manages to do the job fairly well. He’s so affable and good looking that you can’t help but cut the guy slack when he’s on screen. On the other side of the spectrum we have Robert DeNiro being Robert DeNiro (I love when he does that). In a small supporting role we also have Andrew Howard as a Russian mobster not to be messed with, and his character and performance are also one of the more enjoyable things about the film.

Limitless isn’t deep, but it has a fairly smart script that moves along nicely written by Leslie Dixon (Mrs. Doubtfire, Pay it Forward, The Thomas Crowne Affair). The screenplay is based on a novel by Alan Glynn, with which I’m completely unfamiliar – so I have no idea how much it might have diverged from the source material.

This is more of a popcorn movie than I had expected – I went in hoping for something with a bit more substance and perhaps commentary and consequences regarding the use of a fantasy drug that many of us would probably not turn down, but while there was surface level attention paid to that, it didn’t really dig into it. The ending was a bit pat but kind of expected based on the tone, but not unsatisfactory.

I was really torn between a 3.5 and a 4 out of 5… I settled on the former because while the film was slick and fairly satisfying, it left me wanting something “meatier” throughout the viewing. In the end I’d say if you go check this out in the hopes of being entertained that it will do the job for you.

Here’s a trailer for Limitless:

[poll id=”136″]

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Torn about this one .
    We shall see.

    • See Paul. This was not the movie I expected to see based on the trailer.

    • Seen’em both, Paul was surprisingly disapointing while Limitless i went back to see it again the next day.

  2. I’ve liked most of Cooper’s work since Alias. A lot of people just trash talk him and i don’t understand why. He’s a good actor and a likeable person. I’ll check it out. Interesting premise and good cast.

  3. So is it just an allegory for “Flowers for Algernon”?

    • Nope the beginning is similar.. Retard gets inventive new thing to make him smarter than everyone else. But everything else is different and better

  4. I was leaning to passing on this
    but you changed my mind, Vic.
    It looks entertaining and in
    the end that is enough.

  5. Well, this kills the chance of getting a good Charley remake, it seems too close of a concept.

    Umm Vic? How does this stack up against Cliff Robertson’s “Charley”?

    • netshark,

      It’s been MANY years since I’ve seen “Charley” – I really don’t remember much about it.


    • This seems to be another entry in the trend of sloppy SF movies of late. Push, Jumper, I Am Four are some of the others. Take one intriguing idea, a few good effects a so so cast and a poorly thought out script, mix repeat.

    • Thandrale, yeah, I’ve always heard 10% AND I’ve also read that’s a B.S., basically made up number. But the conceit in the film, that the drug allows you to instantaneously recall everything you’ve ever seen, heard or read even if you don’t consciously remember it is still a valid idea and demonstrative of using the brain more efficiently if nothing else.

      And I thought this was better than any of the films you listed.


      • One thing other that I saw from the trailer was that he saw a Bruce Lee movie and was able to duplicate his martial arts moves.

        Did the pill somehow improve his physical being as well? It takes a lot of physical training to do martial arts. No matter how smart you are or how well your memory might be you wouldn’t be able to do it without training.

        I have Enter the Dragon pretty well memorized in every detail but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do any of Bruces moves without seriously injuring myself.

        Did they give any explanation of how he could do that in the movie other than he morized the moves?

        • Thandrale,

          You raise a valid point, but if you watch the scene he didn’t do anything that required any great physical prowess beyond a basic ability to fight. Basic moves that you could be shown in your first martial arts class. I think it was more about how “tuned in” he was and his ability to anticipate and probably react faster.


          • He even says in the narration he’s using techniques to put his opponent of balance and use their momentum to take them down. Overall I thought this was more plausible that, say, the pit fight in Sherlock Holmes (as far as using intellect in a fight)

            Also, it’s not like he wasn’t strained physically – considering he’s limping the next day with bloody knuckles.

        • In Limitless, Eddie Morra was fighting smart; he didn’t try any high fancy kicks or lose his balance. He also had the advantage of being on a drug that conquered most of his fear while boosting his reaction time. He did get kicked in the upper leg which later – realistically – gave him a limp.

  6. They don’t, but then this is a pop corn movie. As Vic eluded, the idea of the film was a little underdeveloped and under researched. However, this is a decent pop corn flick. Easy watching, entertaining, with a satisfactory ending, if not a little predictable.

    And besides, there was that one scene of him doing sit ups to prove that he was physically fit (insert ironic pause here). The ability to do martial arts may have been a big leap, but it made for a great action scene.

    • I guess we can let them slide on it.

      I don’t think I expressed what I meant quite right though. I meant that you have to train the body to be accurate and precise in the moves.

      It would be like someone watching an expert archer shoot an arrow and then picking up the bow and trying to hit the bullseye. I think the word I need is practice. Without practice the eye hand brain coordination isn’t going to be there.

      • i realize it’s been a long time since this was posted, but I still want to comment. Results have actually shown that after seeing things happen, people are more likely to enact them the same way. Am I saying that one can perfectly learn martial arts from watching Bruce Lee do a move? No, but if you took a group of people and had them watch Roger Federer return 10 easy serves in a row, and then had each of those 10 people try, more than half would do so. If you had Federer miss 10 easy serves, more than half of those people would NOT return the serves. It’s in their memory. Also, practice isn’t necessarily the only way to learn how to do something well. The incredible tenor, Pavoratti, said that before he really started singing, he watched the greats sing. He examined them for over a year, and did absolutely no singing himself until he’d trained his mind to know what he had to do. He is one of the greatest singers of all time. Now take this drug, and allow your mind to function at a remarkably accelerated rate, and Cooper’s character could easily execute a self-defense move after just seeing it done. His mind would easily have figured out the technique required, and, having taken kung fu myself, I can tell you that most of fighting is technique. The strength and fitness comes with training and practice, and this allows you to learn more complicated moves that demand more flexibility and strength. Finally, let’s be completely honest with ourselves, THIS IS HOLLYWOOD. If you’re going to be a hater because something isn’t entirely grounded in the real world, go watch your documentaries and stay away from our fiction and fantasy

  7. DeNiro’s gotta eat. I swear he picks scripts with a duck gun now.

    • It’s really sad that he has just given up. He’s practically doing bit parts now. I can’t understand it. Is he just not being offered parts anymore or is he seriously broke or what?

  8. This was a pretty cool movie.I liked the way it was directed,and the story was quite a bit different from what I was expecting,and for the better I might add.

    Very solid flick but hey Vic,you have a star rating for us posters to use,but how come it doesn’t have half star increments? I would’ve probably agreed with your 3 1/2,but I decided to round up because there are no half stars.

  9. Finally saw it this weekend and it was better than I expected. Funny you mention the Fight Club Lite because I thought about Fight Club maybe 3 minutes into the film. Overall though I liked it – wasn’t a waste of money.

    SPOILERS ***

    Based on the trailer I somehow suspected that the drug only worked for him, but it wasn’t the case. I try to suspend disbelief and just enjoy movies, but I couldn’t help but wonder why not everyone was taking the thing once they found out about it – De Niro especially. I suppose it’s because he saw what happened to his competitor.

    The scene where Cooper is asking the tech to redesign the drug and he says it’ll take 18 months, I was whole-heartedly expecting Cooper to pop a pill in the kid’s mouth and say “do it 3.”

    It was also a bit inconsistent that Cooper and his girlfriend are able to think their way out of hopeless situations but Cooper captured the attorney who stole it from him without any apparent difficulty. Either the attorney had taken it when he got a hold of it, or didn’t because of the same reason De Niro didn’t and he just wanted to sell it, maybe? Also, if Cooper’s so smart, why carry his whole stash him and then hand his jacket to someone else, even if just for 5 minutes?

    • It was implied in the movie that the drug effects everyone differently. The loser drug dealer that gave it to him had no where near the mental capacity. It was pointed out in the film, when the drug dealer said something like it works better for you because you were smart to begin with.

      • “It was pointed out in the film, when the drug dealer said something like it works better for you because you were smart to begin with.”

        That makes sense. I mean, you could give your pill to a cat and you’d have a smart cat but it wouldn’t be able to do calculus.

        @Panda The scene where Cooper is asking the tech to redesign the drug and he says it’ll take 18 months, I was whole-heartedly expecting Cooper to pop a pill in the kid’s mouth and say “do it 3.”

        I didn’t think of that but, consider, Eddie quite possibly killed somebody and he was ultimately responsible for five more deaths (two in the park and three in his apartment) so force feeding to somebody what he believes is an illegal, addictive drug would probably be going too far. Oh and he was probably reluctant to give the drug away to anybody just in case the guy couldn’t make any more.

        Now, mind you, that doesn’t mean the guy didn’t try a little bit of it himself. He was, after all, able to create a permanent version of the drug that didn’t require users to constantly take it. Why then wouldn’t Eddie now try to get FDA approval for this version of the drug that apparently had no side effects? Couldn’t it be prescribed to kids with learning difficulties? My guess is that when he didn’t need the drug anymore he shut down the lab himself so he wouldn’t lose his disadvantage. Eddie Morra was not a nice guy after all.

        • “consider, Eddie quite possibly killed somebody and he was ultimately responsible for five more deaths (two in the park and three in his apartment) so force feeding to somebody what he believes is an illegal, addictive drug would probably be going too far”

          Think about it – he’s asking the guy to make more for him. He doesn’t seem too worried about the side effects at that stage in teh movie (I don’t remember when that scene was, before or after the park or the blackout).

          I had thought about the whole “works on everyone differently” when I saw it. I took that to mean that not everyone would achieve his level of mental capacity, but it would still work to a degree. Either way, if the attorney had taken it, don’t you think he would be a closer mental match for Cooper than the thug? I still suspect the attorney didn’t take it for the same (probable) reason De Niro didn’t take it.

          • I meant “going too far” from a story telling perspective. Really, Eddie Morra was not a nice guy. We cheer him on because he’s better than the people he’s up against (killers, gangsters). A decent person would have released NZT onto the market as a legal drug, now that the side effects had been worked out. Instead, he is going to use his acquired advantage to propel himself to the presidency. Makes you wonder. Is Obama on NZT? At least we know Bush wasn’t.

  10. Excellent movie just saw it and would recommend it it dosent have your typical predictable ending it seems to go one way then turns around completely never thought i would be cheering on a drug addict.

  11. LIMITLESS proves you can provide a movie that is

    A)Entertaining – Has a Critics Score on Rotten Tomatoes of %68 with an Audience Score of %75

    B)Profitable – within in only a few weeks of release its Domestic ticket sales have surpassed its budget

    and do it all without

    1) BIG BUDGET – 27MILL is considered CHEAP by most industry measures for a major theatrical release

    2) A List Actors – Although hes moving up the ladder Bradley Cooper is still not what you’d call A list

    3) OVER THE TOP MARKETING – If there have been tie-ins and or merchandising tied to LIMITLESS I haven’t seen it

    BOTTOM LINE: Limitless is an example of what the industry needs more of and not less.

  12. I would definitely like to see part-two of “Limitless”. What becomes of Eddie Morra’s life/future? I did enjoy the movie, since I can relate to pushing my mental faculties beyond my limitations; it opened up my mind about how limited we are in our daily lives. Due to today’s medical and technological innovations/discoveries, I see no reason why the pharmaceutical industry can not develop a similar version (non-addictive & with minor side effects) type brain-booster drug.

    Tony Bosque

  13. Was a good film overall, not what i really expected, but was good to watch, entertaining. Give it 3/5 rating, worth a watch but won’t be joining my dvd collection. Liked bradley cooper in the lead a very underated actor i think, every film i’ve seen him so far he’s been good in.
    A must to watch at least once.

  14. I thought it was good,although a lot was left unexplained! That would have been fine if Bradley Cooper wasn’t narrating and explaining some of the details. He goes on about how leaving the bodies in his apt. was “Okay, since the previous owner was a known armdealer”. How does that explain HIS PRINTS? He doesn’t remember the Past 18 HRS. in one scene, but, he obviously recalled having sex with the dead woman, although since someone wiped the room down he was going to get away with her murder?? I guess we have to assume he didn’t leave any DNA?? If his Attorney, who stole his meds. and since he didn’t give them to his “other” client we can only assume he kept them for himself. If that was the case, why was he “still an IDIOT!” I guess they didn’t work for him, since, he had to know being on T.V. was going to expose him. If he was using 5% of his brain you would think he would take precautions against the “Rich Dead Guys” goon?? I still don’t know if Eddie was really CLEAN at the end of the movie? This could have been a cautionary tale about drug use, UUHEEM (Adderal)! You would think if Eddie really “Got the kinks out”, maybe he could of helped his decrepid ex-wife, who they mention has a couple of kids and her 2nd husband left her! I mean really, she was nice enough to explain how bad the side effects were to him and how he had to wean himself off so he wouldn’t Die! I’m only kidding, but, if your going to explain plot gaps then don’t insult our 5% brain usage!

  15. I really like the concept on this but i dont like the ending, its too american and too mainstream for me. . . .
    Bradly Cooper is a good actor, I look forward in his future projects. .

  16. I just saw this movie and was looking forward to it. I would not break my neck to see it again as most of the characters, other than the lead, were two dimensional. The issue I have with this movie are the murders that take place, and yet the audience is supposed to sympathize with the once hipster writer-blocked author and completely ignore those that died. A majority of deaths at the hands or actions of this drug user were purely selfish. Yet the audience is also supposed to believe that the main character has compassion and love for the girlfriend that dumped him, yet he shows no remorse or atonement for innocent lives being lost. Even the “bad guys” weren’t awful; he messed with the mob… but the mob wants money not death on their hands.
    Yes, yes, I get it… this is a fiction piece, but so was Momento. I saw that movie half-a-dozen times. Ironic that Momento was a low-budget movie about man using a fraction of brain power.
    My opinion is that the writer took ecstasy or cocaine, went off on a euphoric rant and scribbled the “wouldn’t it be awesome if…” scenario into his think pad before crashing and forgetting plot and character development.

  17. An okay movie, if you aren’t on NZT and are using less than 20% of your brain. The thing that spoiled it for me – he is smart enough to see 50 moves ahead of Van Loon (de Niro) but not smart enough to pay back his loan shark on time?