There's little worse for a film critic than watching a perfectly good idea for a movie be bungled in its adaptation to the big screen. Limitless falls into this category, however, with a brilliant concept that ends up so sloppy and poorly written that it made me want to open my laptop and start writing a new script.
The story is based on Alan Glynn's novel "The Dark Fields" about a drug that rewires your brain so that instead of having access to the usual 20% of your neural capacity, you can utilize all of your brain. Every memory is eidetic, everything you've ever seen, heard, learned, touched, tasted can instantly be integrated into your experiences and, as Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) learns, you can master foreign languages in just a day or two and become an accomplished pianist in about the same time. Who wouldn't revel in a drug that offered that capability?
Problem is, to make a movie you need drama, tension, good and bad characters and it's the interplay between them that makes things interesting and engaging. In Watchmen, for example, the ultimate bad guy is the smartest man on Earth, because he's smart enough to see the inevitable progression of man and society. In Limitless, they couldn't decide whether to make it a morality play about Morra gaining abilities as "Enhanced Eddie" at the price of his humanity, or to simply let him be the protagonist overcoming a variety of increasingly ridiculous obstacles, which made for an awful confusing narrative.
The least coherent character in the film is his on-again, off-again girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) who dumps Eddie for being a do-nothing slacker at the beginning of the film, then finds him attractive once he starts taking NZT-48 (as the mystery drug is called), then dumps him when she realizes his newfound attitude is due to drugs. It's a distinctly post-modern conscience.
With a stronger director and a tighter focus on the point of the story, Limitless could have been a splendid movie. It certainly had its fair share of excitement, interesting visual effects and attractive actors and shooting locations. But it's a confection without any substance, a film without a narrative soul, and as such, ended up leaving this critic wishing for something that had a point to make and a more satisfying conclusion.