I know I’m late to the game, but the movie Limitless bubbled to the top of my Netflix disc queue and I finally got a chance to watch it. (Confession time: the disc came sometime back in December and sat unwatched for two months.) The basic premise is that a loser gets access to a secret, designer drug that lets a person “use 100% of the brain instead of the usual 20%.” On the drug, he knocks out a brilliant novel then goes on to play the stock market and broker a multimillion dollar merger. Plus, complications.
For the most part, I really dug it. It was a fun concept, and most of the movie kept you wondering what trajectory this guy’s life was going to take. However, the ending was another matter. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, now is the time to stop reading. Go rent it, watch it, and come back. It’s okay. I’ll wait.
Okay if you’re still with me, I’m assuming it’s because you’ve seen the movie or you have no intention of watching it and don’t mind the ending being spoiled. Here goes.
Like I said, for the most part I really enjoyed it, but the ending just annoyed the crap out of me. It was like someone waved a magic wand and told us to forget everything we’d learned about how things were supposed to work up until that point.
Item #1: Did everyone just conveniently forget the blonde woman he’d screwed and who was subsequently found dead? Okay, yeah, the doorman wasn’t able to pick him out of a lineup and maybe he wouldn’t face charges. But considering he’d blacked out and could barely remember the last 18 hours, is he really that confident that he didn’t kill her? It’s true that his stalker demonstrated a habit for stabbiness, but what was his motivation? Was it an elaborate ploy to set him up for murder? That whole plot line just seemed like a heavy-handed way to get the lawyer in a position to take his jacket to steal the drugs he couldn’t have known where there.
Item #2: Mr. McStabby the stalker. A) Maybe he should have started with a note or a phone call saying, “Hey buddy, I know you don’t know me, but I have a business proposition for you. I’ll buy you a really awesome burger at this joint down the street if you hear me out.” Maybe it would have worked and maybe not, but the whole stalker act was clearly getting nowhere. B) He stabs two guys in Central Park and ends up in the middle of an ice skating rink with blood on his hands and a knife somewhere nearby. How does he not end up arrested at that point? Maybe the girlfriend should have stayed behind and talked to the cops. C) So after killing two people (three if we include the blonde) in his hunt for these drugs, now that the boss is dead he just lets Bradly Cooper keep the whole stash they recover from the lawyer? Really?
Item #3: I’ll admit, it was a neat moment when he stills DeNiro that he’s been off the drugs for months but they rewired his brain so that he didn’t need them any more. BUT. It flies in the face of the other 9/10ths of the movie. The whole time we’re not just told, but we’re shown how dangerous the drug is. How the people who quit taking it look like the faces of meth before eventually dying of organ failure or brain tumors or something. Without some additional explanation, this ending flips the bird at the entire movie’s world building. Maybe the labs he was funding found a way to safely taper off or maybe they found a compound that “rewired” the neural pathways, but whatever baloney excuse we could come up with was still better than the hand wave we got from the actual movie.
Item 4: This one harkens back to number one. As a happily married guy, I’ll admit the infidelity bothered me. Bradly Cooper happily screws his away across the movie with multiple anonymous sex partners, all the while supposedly still hung up on his girlfriend. Okay, the sense of power that comes with the drug is seductive, yada yada, I get that. But he never shows remorse. If you don’t have the morals to feel bad about cheating on your girlfriend then you’re not a nice guy and I sure wouldn’t vote for you. Which brings me to…
Item 5: Now that you’re super-smart without the help of drugs and you’ve already made your $40 million, what do you do next? If you’re the protagonist though, you run for office. He was earlier told that he’s so smart that he clearly has what it takes to run for senate, and later “who knows?” Now at the end we see that he’s doing just that. Clearly what this country needs is a super smart guy to tell everyone else what to do, and he’s the guy for the job. Except, considering he just made $40 million in a matter of months, any sort of political office would be a step down for him. He wants to make a difference? Great! I’d like to think if I were super smart and incredibly wealthy, I’d find a way to make a difference that absolutely didn’t involve politics. I’d set up foundations to deal with homelessness or hunger. What you wouldn’t catch me doing is wasting days debating a pork-laden transportation bill or a farm bill in which 90% has nothing to do with farming. I humbly submit that anyone as smart as (ostensibly) the protagonist would know to stay way far, far away from political office.
So that’s my take on Limitless. For the most part I really did enjoy the movie so I hope you don’t take my nitpicks the wrong way. It had a lot of great things going for it. Unfortunately, for me the last 20 minutes undermined some of the great work it had already established..