Bradley Cooper's post-Hangover energy burst wasn't screened by WW press deadlines, but we took our medicine anyway. It wasn't so bad.
WW Critic's Score: 71
Limitless is a Hollywood writer's fantasy—you can tell because as soon as the hero (Bradley Cooper) gains extraordinary powers, he quits being a writer. But of course the director has the last word: While Leslie Dixon's script is often cynical and glib (not to mention over-reliant on voiceover narration), Neil Burger's surge of images and sound vaults the movie into the "more interesting than it has any right to be" canon. Limitless, a muddled fable about a clear pill that offers mental clarity, doesn't make much sense, and doesn't need to—it's pure visual stimulation. Burger's camera tunnels forward through Manhattan streetscapes in repeated zooms (the effect is of a photograph that, upon closer focus, dissolves into the photograph behind it) and when Cooper's high wears off, the image literally flips, so that he is vomiting vertically upward, into the air and onto his shoes.
When Limitless' buzz is kicking in, it's the sympathy-for-the-speculators fun that Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps failed to achieve. Cooper's handsomeness has always carried a whiff of the disingenuous—he's to the douchebag manor born—but that works for him in a role where he's smart, sleazy and more than a little pathetic: a junkie whose fix actually does cure all his problems. Trading on his addicted amorality, the movie becomes a momentarily perceptive satire of unchecked capitalism as literal vampirism. Unusually for a semi-thriller, Limitless only falls apart after its action climax, in a final-scene reversal that dodges the ironic and deserved fate for its protagonist. The movie does have a limit—100 minutes, apparently. PG-13.
Limitless opens wide on Friday; see showtimes here.