This week being Thanksgiving week, and my office being under construction, I’ve been working from home. This basically amounts to me rolling out of bed five minutes before 8 (9 in office time) and spending all day in my pjs on the computer. Which, let’s be honest, is probably what I’d be doing anyway. Today in between copyediting I decided I’d watch one of Netflix’s endless selection of craptastic movies. And because I am always topically relevant in every area of my life, I decided to reaffirm that this year’s People‘s Sexiest Man Alive decision (and, actually, the entire list) is seriously flawed. Enter Limitless, the 2011 thriller released in March of this year that stars Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and, inexplicably, Robert De Niro.
The basic premise is this: Know how people supposedly only use 20 percent of their brain? Well, what if a big pharma company figured out how to make a pill that stimulated certain receptors or fired synapses or blah blah blah, whatever–the point is, take this little clear pill and become a genius. At everything. Oh, also it makes you want to wear leather jackets, clean your apartment, and drive recklessly, plus you get great in bed. When the movie opens, Cooper, hereby known as Eddie Morra, is a loser writer (movie shorthand: long hair in a tiny ponytail, cigarettes, shitty apartment, daytime drinking). On his way back from getting wasted at lunch after his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish, who I could tell instantly would be one of those actresses I see in plenty of stuff and forget her face immediately after) dumps him, he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, my ’90s boyfriend Johnny Whitworth. (Don’t judge, Empire Records is still totally awesome.) Good ol’ Johnny used to be a drug dealer; now he “consults for a pharmaceutical company” a.k.a. is Cooper’s pipeline to the magical pills, nicknamed NZT. He gives Eddie a pill, Eddie goes home and bangs out half a novel (plus his landlord’s wife), and comes back hankering for more.
A whole lot more plot happens before we get to what I really want to talk about, so let’s just skip to it: Eddie drinks blood. Legit! He’s just stabbed his ambiguously Eastern European loan shark to death after the guy injected himself with some NZT. Eddie’s desperate for a fix, so as he lies on the floor in the throes of withdrawal and Loan Shark’s NZT’d blood comes flowing across the floor toward him, he opens his mouth. And DRINKS BLOOD. This, apparently, is sufficient for him to turn back into a supergenius, and he evades the other baddies by stabbing the first in his one good eye, blinding him and fooling him into shooting the other. I won’t spoil the ending for you–and I’m not sure I even could, since the logic is tenuous at best. But I will say B-Coop calls Bobby De Niro his bitch, which, combined with the blood drinking, is almost enough for me to recommend this to a friend. If said friend is at home on a Wednesday night, half in the bag and sick of Family Guy reruns.
It’s a stylish movie, and there are some cool visual techniques–Eddie’s blackout night of debauchery is especially niftily shot–and the movie never delves into the real moral ramifications of what he’s doing, making it easily enjoyable. But in the end, we really have no reason to root for Eddie. He goes from impoverished writer to slick Wall Street tycoon to maybe something history-changing–but there’s no evidence he’ll use his powers for good rather than for evil. He’s charming, charismatic, and is great at playing the stock market, but, like the movie itself, he has very little substance.