Film Reviews


By • Mar 18th, 2011 •

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Smart and sharp. Great concept soon to be a reality.

But first, the medical reality: Doctors are now medicating unhappiness. According to a government study, antidepressants have become the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. In its study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 2.4 billion drugs prescribed in visits to doctors and hospitals in 2005. Of those, 118 million were for antidepressants. The use of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs — those that affect brain chemistry — has skyrocketed over the last decade.

Forget about Viagra. It’s now expensive, not-covered by insurance, twice-a- month testosterone replacement injections.

Why legalize marijuana*, when there is Xanax?

Nootropics, also referred to as smart drugs, memory enhancers, and cognitive enhancers, are purported to improve mental functions such as cognition, memory, intelligence, motivation, attention and concentration.

Modafinil is one of the new neuro-enhancing “smart drugs” now being taken by growing numbers of students. It was originally developed for the treatment of narcolepsy, but is now used by students to combat fatigue. Another popular choice is Ritalin, originally designed as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both increase levels of dopamine levels in the brain – and the alertness and wakefulness of those taking them.

I heard about one such expensive super-drug, but my doctors refused to write me a prescription. Apparently, of all the doctors in Las Vegas, I have the ones with ethics.

Why be ordinary when drugs can make us special? It’s the future.

When New York loser-novelist Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is finally dumped by his career-driven girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish), he’s at his lowest, unkempt point. He runs into his apparently successful ex-brother-in-law who takes pity on him and gives him an experimental drug called NZT. Within 30 seconds, the drug takes hold and galvanizes Morra. It enhances reality – you see everything in exacting clarity in hyper-speed. You know everything you ever glanced at. It takes Morra a few hours to write his novel and clean up his Hoarders tenement walk-up. NZT also turns him into George Clooney circa Ocean’s Eleven. He learns to speak Japanese fluently by sitting on a train next to someone listening – on headphones – to Macmillan’s “Behind the Wheel” CD.

It takes Morra fifteen minutes to conquer Beethoven’s greatest piano work, Opus 106, the “Hammerklavier” Sonata. And he never even took a lesson! NZT uptakes Morra’s middling intelligence and turns him into a 4-digit IQ genius. Morra plays the stock market with loanshark startup money and within 10 days makes $2 million.

Morra needs more NZT and goes to his ex-brother-in-law’s apartment to score more. The guy has been murdered and the place ransacked. Morra finds the NZT stash and he does, what we all would logically do, doubles the daily dose.

Morra becomes a financial media star and Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), a Murdoch-like titan, wants him on his team – maybe. Van Loon knows Morra’s explanation – his secret algorithm – is poppycock. He wants Morra to look at a potential merger and make some suggestions.

Morra does not seem the least bit concerned about who killed his ex-brother-in-law or what will happen when he finishes the NZT stash. Another annoying pest is the Russian mobster who lent him the money to start trading. You’d think Morra, doing the math on the “vig”, would pay him back asap.

Then, of course, things start getting ugly. The drug has nasty side effects. It’s a drug that cannot be stopped without causing death and messy hair. Morra starts feeling the effects of too much NZT. The worm has turned.

Cooper is terrific as the slob turned bespoke charmer. No matter how well THE HANGOVER franchise does, LIMITLESS changes Cooper’s career path toward Clooneyville. Cornish is wasted and her role is merely meant to signal Morra’s heterosexuality. De Niro took the role because he did not have to leave New York City. De Niro’s acting career is behind him. While actresses constantly complain about no roles for women over 40 (ignoring the fact that in their 30s they never championed roles for older actresses), there are not many great roles written for men over 60. So De Niro chose the MEET THE FOCKERS route.

The screenplay, by Leslie Dixon from a novel by Alan Glynn, is fast-paced and twisty. It certainly is more based in reality than SOURCE CODE. What is outstanding is director Neil Burger’s visual take on representing psychoactive mind-altering states. As a vocal advocate for entheogens and as a life-long voyager myself, Burger richly showcases Morra’s enhanced senses.

Does LIMITLESS glorify drug use? Well, illicit drugs lead to street crimes, but what if a drug could makes you smarter and you used super-intelligence to make a lot of money?

* On the record, I’m for legalizing all drugs.

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One Response »

  1. This film is definately on my must see list. But I did want to comment on the drugs editorial in the review. In today’s world it is hard to jugge what is good or bad. We are really a drug culture, if you consider what we take on a daily basis with respect to vitamins, fish oil, asperin for heart health, memory aides, etc. Not to mention as we get older, drugs are trying to keep us alive. So what is really the negative of “drugs”. I fear we have a perception which is different that what society as a whole is really doing.

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