Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Film Review: Limitless

Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 105 min
Genres: Mystery | Thriller


Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra
Robert De Niro as Carl Van Loon
Abbie Cornish as Lindy
Andrew Howard as Gennady
Anna Friel as Melissa
Johnny Whitworth as Vernon
Tomas Arana as Man in Tan Coat
Robert John Burke as Pierce
Darren Goldstein as Kevin Doyle
Ned Eisenberg as Morris Brandt
T.V. Carpio as Valerie
Richard Bekins as Hank Atwood

I want a new drug
One that won't make me sick
One that won't make me crash my car
Or make me feel three feet thick

 - Huey Lewis And The News

Watching The Lincoln Lawyer put me in the mood to see another film, and since I'd seen the previews for this one somewhere and it didn't look too awful bad, I thought I might roll the dice again. Turns out I pick better films than I do ponies. I'm writing this review with a few spoilers, but I will not spoil the finish.

I took in the Tuesday night 9:20 PM show at a local theater attached to a shopping mall (Westfield Franklin Park Mall if it matters, and I don't think it does). I picked the week day late show because I thought the crowd would be sparse. Fat chance. As soon as I walked into the theater I considered walking out again. The place was packed with people who do not have to get up for work tomorrow morning. They understand such terms as vitamin b-40, deuce deuce and can use the word shizzle in a sentence without having to think about it. They put their feet up on the seats in front of them. Talking on their cell phone and carrying on a normal conversation during a movie is normal behavior for these people. Truly, they do not understand the value of a quiet theater. The alternative to Limitless is Red Riding Hood, and I'm just not in the mood for a werewolf movie. I remained seated, resolving to tough it out.

The plot for Limitless involves a writer who accepted an advance that, like most writers who are foolish enough to do such things, he should have declined. Now Ernest Hemingway has a bad case of writer's block and associated disorders such as alcohol abuse, and it looks like someone else will win the Pulitzer this year. Next year isn't looking too good either. Then his girlfriend kicks him to the curb.

In a scene reminiscent of something out of Alice in Wonderland, Our Hero is ambulating down the sidewalk and runs into the Mad Hatter, who invites him to the tea party where he is given a little pill with some fairly simple instructions: Eat me! And he does, mainly because if he doesn't there will be no film.

Now think: If a pot smoking total waste of space that you used to know and haven't seen in over ten years bumps into you on the sidewalk and hands you some story about working for a huge pharmaceutical company and gives you a free sample of something that is due to go on the market in a year or two with a somewhat cavalier explanation about FDA approval and brain receptors, would you actually swallow any of this? No? Me neither.

Turns out the little pill jumps Our Hero's IQ from a very shaky 105 to about 200. "Red hot damn on a Saturday night!", says Our Hero. "I gotta get me some more of this mental go go juice!" And he does. Now naturally since one pill is good, five may be better, and so it's down the hatch and off we go to conquer the world with an IQ of about eight zillion. All this happens in the first 30 minutes of the film, so having got down to business the filmmaker has to stay there or risk failure. That means there have to be a few obstructions, otherwise everyone would all live happily ever after. We begin by getting rid of a few people who would only cause trouble later on. Then we learn that you can't run the family sedan on nitromethane and not have it suck up a value or throw a rod when you drop the hammer at five grand for the eighth time in one evening.

I think I'm going to leave it at that. You can see the film for yourself and enjoy it or not as the case may be. What I found more interesting than the film was the audience.

In the film Our Hero is someone that almost everyone in the audience can identify with. He isn't wealthy, he's unemployed and his woman has just kicked him to the curb for reasons that everyone can agree with. He lives in a messy apartment and he's behind on his rent. He's unshaven, unkempt and having spent the entire advance, dead broke. One pill changes all that.

One pill turns him into someone that everyone would like to be. He's smarter than everyone else, he has ambition and drive to succeed. He wins at poker, then he moves on to win at the stock market. He doesn't expend much effort to do this, either. Listening to a foreign language is enough for him to learn to speak it. Watching martial arts movies is enough to give him the fighting skills to bust a few heads during a confrontation on the subway. He becomes a sort of super man.

The audience was dead quiet through the whole thing. They watched, and I believe they spent their time imagining what they might do if they ever found the right pill. Side effects wouldn't matter, the length of your life would not be a factor. Live half as long but twice as well? Just tell me this: can I kick that up to a factor of five or six?

Limitless is a great film. I found it entertaining and it ends well. In fact, the ending is worth sitting though the film even if you don't especially care for it. I'd give it four out of five stars and I consider it a good value at regular price admission, and a real bargain at matinee prices.


Stephanie Lorée said...

I'm liking these film reviews, Mad Jack. Both Limitless and Lincoln Lawyer are on my to watch list. This weekend though, they may get passed by for Sucker Punch which looks light on the plot, heavy on the CGI eye candy. I'm not opposed to mindless entertainment.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks Stephanie. I'm also tempted by Sucker Punch, but the crowds are going to be fierce.