‘Limitless’ a Soulless Pro-Drug Thriller

April 3, 2011

== Spoilers ahead ==

Limitless made for a fun, Friday-night romp, but ten minutes after leaving the movie theater, I realized its plot relied on idiotic coincidences and presented a disturbing, pro-drug message.  It’s too bad, really, that the writing was so questionable, because the acting and cinematography were quite strong.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling, non-household-name writer who nevertheless has been paid an advance on a book he hasn’t written yet.  (Okaaay, but we’ll let that one go for the moment.)  Just when he’s about to drain down the toilet of despair, an old friend introduces him to NZT, a drug that allows him to utilize his brain’s full potential.  You know the old wive’s tale, of course: we mortals are cursed to only use a small fraction of our brain cells because the rest of it is preoccupied with things like pornography.  But NZT, the wonder drug, allows Eddie to fire up his full 100 percent.  Suddenly, he can place his order with a waiter in a foreign language; and gee, we’ve never ever seen that in a movie before.  He finishes his novel in four days — four days! — as computer-generated letters and numbers rain down upon him and his word processor to show us the miracle of this manna-from-heaven intelligence.

Soon, he makes a killing on the stock market and meets the financial world’s godfather, played by Robert De Niro, whose name, Carl Van Loon, is surely coincidental to the character’s being a loon.  Eddie’s ex-girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), falls in love with this new persona and rewards him with sex.

Eddie also makes a killing in the form of a Courtney Love lookalike whom he murders during a drug-induced blackout.  So he uses his money to hire a high-rolling defense lawyer who — coincidentally! — works for Carl Van Loon’s arch-nemesis, who employs a psycho henchman who — coincidentally! — has been following Eddie around all this time.

More hijinks ensue.  The cameraman goes crazy with a continuous-zoom effect that travels the length of Manhattan island and ends up sprayed all over the seat in front of me.  Eddie beats his murder rap, the Loon is outsmarted, Eddie is on the road to the presidency, and he flawlessly orders another meal in a foreign language he doesn’t know.

And did I mention that the movie starts at the very climax of the story until Eddie jumps in as a voiceover to say that he’ll now show us how he arrived at this point?

What’s most disturbing about this movie is that it validates the drug culture.  It shows, again and again, that we’re not smart enough or athletic enough to solve our problems without pills.  Eddie is rewarded, repeatedly, for his habit: he becomes rich, he gets the girl back, he gets away with murder, and he’s set onto the road of “limitless” fame and fortune.

Oh, he says he’s off the drug by the end of the movie — he doesn’t need it anymore — presumably because he just thought his way out of it with his advanced intelligence.  After all, that’s what Charlie Sheen teaches us, isn’t it, that you can just blink your eyes and tap your ruby slippers to cure yourself of substance abuse.  Even if you believe that’s possible — and I hope by my tone you realize I don’t — Eddie’s drug-free status at the end of the movie doesn’t justify how he arrived there, which was by traveling the road of pharmaceutical assistance.

Limitless is a slick-looking movie.  It’s mostly fun to watch.  But it’s kind of like a big candy bar — maybe one laced with LSD.  The side effects and the bad aftertaste aren’t worth it.