Follow us on

Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Limitless

July 18th, 2011

Limitless - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Bradley Cooper earned major breakout success thanks to The Hangover and after The A-Team missed expectations, Limitless became a major test of his potential A-list status. Taking into consideration the time of year it was released, and its production budget, it was a solid hit. But will it help build his brand? Or will those who saw this movie be less likely to seek out his future films?

The Movie

The film starts with Eddie Morra standing on the edge of a building preparing to jump while he asks how it got to this point.

We then jump to not too long ago and see Eddie in a much less complicated time. He's a writer, or to be more specific, a failed writer. He's got to the end of the week to hand in 90 pages or he's book deal is done. He's spends more time drinking than writing, but not enough drinking to be an alcoholic, just a procrastinator. He's got one thing going for him, his girlfriend Lindy, who dumps him. He's at his low point realizing he's probably going to wind up living with his parents and working in the family business, when he runs into Vern, his former brother-in-law and reformed drug dealer. Vern is no longer dealer drugs, at least not illegal ones, and has helped develop a new drug, NZT-48, that supposedly unlocks all of the potential in the human mind.

(He even gives that crap about only being able to access 20% of your mind. You have no idea how much that myth bugs me.)

It's FDA approved and ready for market, and Vern gives him a sample, for free. Despite his misgiving, Eddie tries the pill and Bam! It works. Suddenly everything's clear and his mind is working at its theoretical peak. He uses his new found mental prowess to first have sex with Valerie, his landlord, then to finish the first 90 pages of his novel. However, the next day when he wakes up, he's back to normal and heads over to Vern to see if he can get more pills. That's when he learns Vern wasn't completely upfront about NZT-48. It's not FDA approved, it's not market ready, and whoever Vern's working with did a number on his face the night before, so clearly he's not working with a reputable business partner. Worse still, when Eddie returns after doing an errand for Vern, he finds Vern dead. After calling the cops, he finds Vern's stash and begins to take advantage of what NZT-48 has to offer. He finishes his novel, learns to play piano, cleans up at the poker tables, picks up women, etc.

It's going so well, he begins to up his dosage. However, like all wish-granters, NZT-48 soon turns on him. That's not a spoiler, as it is practically a law of nature that any wish-granters will turn on the user, whether that wish-granters is a magical genie, a dismembered primate appendage, or a talking squash. That said, the exact details of that are clearly spoilers, so we will end the plot details there.

This does bring up the biggest problem I had with the movie. The overall storyarc is a little predictable and doesn't stray far from the genre conventions. The other big problem with the film is... nope, that's about it. There are a couple other aspects of the movie that some might have problems with. Firstly, Eddie's near constant voiceover and / or visual representation of the effects of NZT-48 might be too much, but stylistically I liked it. Secondly, this is a shallow movie. This movie is in no way an indictment of the world we live in, corporate greed, or a deep look at addiction, or any other complex part of human nature. It's perfectly happy being nothing more than adult wish fulfillment. In my opinion, as long as you understand that going in, that's fine.

Bradley Cooper is excellent in the film and has an amazing ability to act superficially charming in a way that still makes you want to cheer for him. You get this attitude wrong, and the character becomes smarmy instead of charming and the audience will be rooting for him to fail. (I was reminded of numerous films that have made this fatal mistake.) And while we know the drug will turn on him, the way it plays out is well done, starting slow at first. The mystery that is set up is compelling, there are several players introduced, there's plenty of action. There's even enough twists to allow for immediate replay value. There are enough flaws that prevent the film from being great, but it's solidly entertaining, and that's hardly a backhanded compliment.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD / Blu-ray start with an audio commentary track with Neil Burger, the director. It's a solo track and doesn't have a huge amount of energy, but it is informative and worth checking out. There are two making of featurettes, which run a combined 16 minutes. They talk about the origins of the script, the cast, the look of the film, right down to aging Eddie's wardrobe for the beginning. Finally, there's an 5-minute alternative ending, although there's not that much of a difference between this ending and the one they used in the film. (I do like the final ending better.)

The Blu-ray also comes with the theatrical version, as well as the extended version, and a Digital Copy of the film.

As for the tech specs, that's actually a little more complicated. The quality of the video varies quite dramatically depending on Eddie's state of mind. Pre-drug the colors are desaturated and the details are not as sharp. When he's on the drug, the color saturation is kicked up and the details are as clear as you could hope for. When the side effects kick in, the colors are over-saturated, there's banding issues, etc. These are things that would normally be considered serious problems with the transfer, but they are clearly there for aesthetic reasons. As for the audio, it's impeccable. The dialogue is clear, the surround sound speakers get a robust workout, the bass adds oomph to the audio without overpowering anything. It's maybe not quite reference material, but it is certainly closer than I was expecting.

Finally we get to the price, which is a little high. $23 for a first-run Blu-ray is a little higher than I would like, as is the 44% premium over the DVD. It does come with a digital copy of the movie and both versions, but that's it for Blu-ray exclusives. I think the impressive technical presentation makes the upgrade worth it, but not by a lot.

The Verdict

Limitless is an entertaining Faustian tale that is content to be wish-fulfillment rather than a deeper look at the human psyche, or corporate greed and corruption. It's absolutely worth checking out, and while neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray are overloaded with extras, it is worth picking up over just renting.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review, Limitless