Completely Fictional

Limitless

dir. by Neil Burger

I don't know how to feel about this movie. Or, rather, allow me to work my way into a spot where I can be pithy.

On the one hand, yeah, 'Limitless' is flawed as all hell. On the other hand, I liked it. It's not a great film, no, and it's totally all over the place, introducing subplots and plot threads then dropping them almost arbitrarily, but it's earnest and well-directed in its manic stupidity, and that's enough to endear it to me I guess.

An example: Bradley Cooper's character starts having blackouts as a result of the pills he's taking to supercharge his brain. I find this to be an engaging concept, and so in what must come as a shock to you, dear reader, I try to engage with it. Ten minutes later all I have is a decent street fight — no, really, it was a pretty good one — and the vague possibility that he murdered someone. In my head, I picture an abstracted image of Bradley Cooper shrugging when I ask him whether or not he actually did, replying with a nonchalant "Hey, man, I didn't get brought to court, what more do you want?" Not to mention the whole blackout thing is handwaved as "he wasn't taking his pills the right way," and is subsequently never mentioned again. But at least it was flashy, right? Here's looking at you, kid.

The really weird thing about this whole "I will unequivocally state I like this film" thing is how much I'm truly annoyed by all the inconsistencies and plot holes I can find. Am I really supposed to think the police are so dumb they would write off the triple-killing at the movie's conclusion as merely the result of a former arms dealer's disgruntled past associates? Or that a man who has physically killed three men in his own home — self-defense or not — would be able to successfully run for senator, or even (as the film implies) president? Or that drinking the blood of a man who injected liquid concentrate of the pill into his bloodstream would give himself anything other than a stomach ache (or worse, hepatitis A)? Or that Jesus fuck he kept the severed hands of his bodyguards in his safe? What the fuck movie? Is this a fucking dark comedy now? Oh, no, your obsession with the macabre was as fleeting as Bradley Cooper's run as a novelist (he publishes a book then quits, never to take up a pen again). Whatever, man. Just... whatever.


Look! A visual metaphor for image obsession! Okay! Moving on!

To the film's credit, the cinematography is good and Bradley Cooper nails his performance to the wall, which is par for the course with him; the guy could sleep-walk through a film and be one of the best actors in it. It has enough good moments and sustains just enough narrative momentum in spite of its clodding inability to establish what kind of movie it wants to be (Is it a psychological thriller? A techno-thriller? An action/adventure flick? An allegory for drug dependence? For various body dysmorphic disorders? What?) that it, at the very least, earns a recommendation over, say, 'Battle: Los Angeles'. Sure, that's like saying it's a better use of two hours to stab a wall repeatedly than to stab yourself, but at least Aaron Eckhart would agree.

I understand it was adapted from a book, and that would explain a lot; a novel can afford to explore a variety of concepts because it doesn't have a set length per se. A two-hour film, on the other hand, can only cover — or perhaps I should say break — so much ground before it exhausts itself and collapses. 'Limitless' doesn't know what to leave alone, and as a result all the cool shit it wanted to offer gets to fester in a pile instead.