“I don’t have delusions of grandeur,” brags Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), the brash hero of Limitless. “I have a recipe for grandeur.” Actually, what Eddie has is a big stash of translucent pills — a new drug called NZT-48, not yet approved by the FDA — that allows users to access 100 percent of their brains instead of the often-quoted (and mythical) 10 percent. This means that Eddie, formerly a shambling novelist with terminal writer’s block, can now write a book in four days; learn to play the piano in three; pick up languages just from hearing someone speak and even perform some ferocious kung-fu by drawing on his memories of Bruce Lee movies.
Such a pill, if it existed, would be the miracle drug everybody wanted, and Eddie, who got his supply from his late brother-in-law, soon discovers he’s not the only junkie desperately hooked on NZT. What’s worse, the more pills Eddie pops, the greater the side effects — including, but not limited to, an extended blackout during which he may have murdered a woman.Based on a novel by Alan Glynn and directed with much flash and style by Neil Burger ( The Illusionist), Limitless is an exceptionally busy movie. In addition to its various action and thriller plotlines, the film must make time for Eddie’s reconciliation with his ex-girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) and his partnership with a tycoon (a wasted Robert De Niro) who wants to harness the egghead’s brain waves for profit. Eddie becomes so smart that he starts to predict the future — a handy skill for Gordon Gekko or the X-Men but another instance in which this movie about super-intelligence makes no sense whatsoever. The story moves as quickly as the brainiac hero, whose new power demands that he remain in a state of perpetual activity or explode (figuratively). To convey the speed of Eddie’s thoughts, Burger employs a slew of nifty special effects, including a new kind of zoom shot that covers miles of Manhattan in a single, breathtaking rush. But for all its peripatetic energy, Limitless still winds up with the same-old blazing guns and wanton destruction of property. No matter how smart you may be, Hollywood will figure out a way to dumb you down.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth.
Director: Neil Burger.
Screenwriter: Leslie Dixon. Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn.
Producers: Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh, Scott Kroopf.
A Relativity Media release. Running time: 105 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, violence, gore, adult themes. Playing at: area theaters.