Weinberg Reviews LIMITLESS

The span of the last several weeks has brought us all sorts of sci-fi fun: Damon and Blunt dealing with The Adjustment Bureau, Aaron Eckhart leading the goofy but fun Battle: Los Angeles, the upcoming (and very cool) Source Code, a handful of great SXSW treats like Attack the Block, The Divide, and Phase 7 ... and then up pops a flick like Limitless, which looks a whole lot like a forgettable piece of genre fluff that'd get dumped in early January and vanish without a trace.

Only there are two problems: 1. It's actually March, and 2. Limitless is really quite a solid little flick! Seriously!

Perhaps best described as a neo-noir sci-fi chase thriller with pharmaceutical tendencies, Limitless is about an oddly affable but seriously lethargic writer / loser who pops a fancy new "designer" drug, only to discover that, virtually overnight, he has become Albert Einstein combined with Stephen Hawking ... with a dash of Stephen King, but only to pay the bills. So already we're looking at a new-fangled combination of "Flowers for Algernon" and/or Charly, mixed with some tasty Twilight Zone spice, with a few chases and escapes to keep the kids interested, and it's all rather well-paced and slick and enjoyable -- but there's often a little extra coolness that pops up from time to time.

Director Neil Burger (The Illusionist), for example, employs several elaborate transitions as our anti-hero bounces from normalcy to mega-genius levels, but the visual gimmicks never manage to upset the narrative track. Ditto the screenplay by veteran writer Leslie Dixon (Freaky Friday), which is consistently clever enough on its own, but also tosses four or five truly excellent "dialogue-heavy" scenes into the mix. Two specific exchanges late in the film, between leading man Bradley Cooper and an enjoyably shifty Robert De Niro, are laden with witty barbs and crafty banter. It's all popcorn-level stuff, but it's popcorn-level stuff with some cool ideas, a skewed sense of humor, and half a brain that it's not embarrassed to show off. (Again, thanks to the filmmakers for giving Mr. De Niro some sharp, smart, amusing lines to deliver. It's been a while.)

Bolstered by some very fine work by Abbie Cornish, an effectively moody score, and some truly cool cinematography, Limitless may not stand as the most unique or exciting sci-fi flick of the year, but it does lots of things right, and in the realm of cinematic sci-fi, that's pretty impressive all by itself.
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