Smarmy Sci-Fi Fun

Main Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro

Director: Neil Burger

Bradley Cooper is an enigma to me.  I liked him as the clueless friend in Alias but I almost always find his movie characters to be smarmy and unlikable.  Is it choice of roles?  Has his reported handsomeness gone to his head and created a smarmy monster?  I just don’t know.  But I’m glad to see him circling back towards characters I can at least tolerate in the quite enjoyable Limitless.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: the premise is entirely ludicrous.  Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a down-on-his-luck writer who happens to run into an old acquaintance that pities him and gives him a sample of a new miracle drug that allows him to use his whole brain.  You know, instead of the 20% that humans supposedly make use of in the normal course of things.  Now he’s a supergenius!  Oh, but the affects wear off and then he’s back to schlumpy-man.  Of course, he must have more.  And more!  Of course, the drug is not legal or safe.  Action and intrigue ensue.

See?  Ludicrous.  So the first thing we need to do is place our disbelief high on a shelf, then we can sit back and enjoy.  For Cooper, director Neil Burger and writers Leslie Dixon (screenplay) and Alan Glynn (novel) put together a fun movie, playing with the notions of “cheating” in business, a crazy sort of drug addiction and just how far this character can – and will – take his newfound abilities.   Robert DeNiro joins the party as Eddie’s business world mentor.

Limitless isn’t so different from a superhero movie.  Eddie gets powers not available to others and must decide how to use them.  Unlike the usual superhero, however, there isn’t a question of using those powers for the public good – it’s all about how much and how well he can use them to benefit himself.  That’s where the fun is – Eddie isn’t the nicest guy, he isn’t really a hero, but he’s given an amazing gift to use however he sees fit.  He just has to balance the cost/benefit ratio.  Would most of us, given superpowers, become a vigilante avenger of societal ills?  Probably not.  Would we be as greedy and self-serving as Eddie?  Probably not – but it sure is fun to watch him outplay a bunch of business weasels.

Bradley Cooper does an admirable job with this role.  Eddie has the smarm component I’ve come to expect from a Cooper character, but he’s also depressed and stupid (without the drug).  He’s just kind of a loser.  Cooper makes the transformation from rags to riches, if not believable, fun to watch.  We do feel a little bit sorry for him at first, getting dumped by his girlfriend and suffering paralyzing writer’s block.  As the real truth about the drug and the dangers it poses emerge the action is well paced and interesting, with enough twists and turns to keep the movie suspenseful throughout.

Overall, Limitless is a good movie and a fun way to spend a couple of hours lost in Sci-fi Action Land.  Don’t expect greatness, just relax into the silly premise and enjoy.  3 stars out of 5.

More Bradley Cooper

A Star Is Born ~ American Hustle ~ Silver Linings Playbook

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