A gleeful celebration of nonstop doping, Limitless offers up a dim Better Living Through Chemistry fantasy that refuses to rain on its own pill-popping parade.
Struggling novelist Eddie (Bradley Cooper) acquires fame and fortune after he takes a magic tablet dubbed NZT, which unlocks his brain's full potential. He is now a four-digit IQ superman. Director Neil Burger mirrors his protagonist's newfound abilities with incessant cinematographic showing off, using telescopic zooms, CG-enhanced temporal skips, and a cascade of letters falling around the newly inspired writer.
This enthusiastic depiction of getting high would be an ideal means of parodying our narcotized age, but Burger plays the material straight. The plot eventually turns to Eddie's financial troubles with a thuggish loan shark (Andrew Howard) and a corporate titan (a sleepwalking Robert De Niro), and threats to his safety are introduced via the very sort of nonsensical behavior from which he should be immune.
Without a complex thought about narcissism, merit or addiction, Limitless is content to be a one-note, satire-free fairy tale of avarice and corporate-political ambition — one that ultimately proves incapable of taking the nation's current economic-crisis pulse.