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by on July 18, 2011
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A modern film dripping with ’80s sleaze, “Limitless” is an enjoyably slimy yuppie fantasy that oozes machismo.

Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Morra, in danger of being swallowed up by New York City with a failed marriage, a book deadline approaching way too fast, and a dumping from his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) when a chance encounter with his ex-brother-in-law (Johnny Whitworth) offers him salvation in pill form. Literally, it’s a pill called NZT that will allow him to access the full limits of human potential by opening up all of his brain function — springboarding off scientific claims that we only use a fraction of it.

Eddie skeptically tries it, and … it works! He’s hyperaware of his surroundings, remembers everything to which he was even superficially exposed and finishes his book in a few days. Then, he quickly turns to brokering stock to find instant success and riches, as well as the attention of  an array of beautiful women, including (but not limited to) his ex.

But as always with a too-good-to-be-true offer, there’s a price: Eddie finds that he has to take the pill daily or else he’ll not only lose his heightened mental powers but start developing intense headaches and other severe withdrawal symptoms. As Eddie tracks others who’ve taken NZT, some of those people start mysteriously dying … and then Eddie notices someone following him. Complicating things further is Eddie’s involvement with a loan shark (Andrew Howard) who soon learns about NZT and that Eddie has some.

This is a perfect vehicle for Cooper, who pulls off the cooler-than-cool and slathers on the sleaze when need be to hold the film afloat when things go wrong. He plays a surprisingly effective slacker and is, of course, the perfect actor to play a character reaching his mind’s full potential. He’s clear-eyed, calculating and razor-sharp.

Robert De Niro is this film’s other big name, playing Eddie’s ruthless boss, and oddly, the film stalls a bit once he arrives.  He’s mailing it in at times, but his character ends up being important to Eddie’s arc, where even friends and mentors can grow into something a little more sinister.

Director Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) gives a pretty sweet visualization of NZT’s effects, brightening the image and intensifying the colors, giving a sense of heightened awareness.

There’s also a laughably apt, but pretty gruesome, scene that is essentially a Popeye moment raising the crazy to a new level for a film of this type and allowing the coda to be more than a nonsensical gimmicky ending.

Blu-ray extras include an extended cut of the film, an alternate ending, an audio commentary from director Neil Burger and two featurettes.

“Limitless” is an enjoyable, sensationalist romp that is certainly worth a look.

Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 3.5 Yaps