Success is a Loan Shark

Limitless

With innovative direction by Neil Burger who brought the stunning period drama The Illusionist to the screen in 2006, Limitless stars Bradley Cooper as an aimless writer in New York City battling to complete a novel, landing up more at the Bar than at his publishers. Through a dodgy encounter with a shady brother-in-law, Ed Morra (Cooper) discovers the drug NZT which unlocks the potential of the human brain allowing a person to operate with all synapses connected and being fully in control with a super stimulated and alert state of mind, unlocking memories, abilities and hidden talents. Soon Morra in his quest for personal wealth transforms into a stock market trader being wooed by big investors and also chased by a shady Russian loan shark.

Morra played with humility and helped by Cooper’s vulnerable, yet starling blue eyes, is a departure for the actor who was in danger of being stuck in romantic comedy hell. Having instant fame from such hit films as The Hangover and The A-Team, Bradley Cooper holds his own as a flawed hero in Limitless a psychological thriller on the efforts men go to achieve success and power, wealth and wisdom at whatever cost. Unlike Edward Zwick’s raunchy comedy Love and Other Drugs which used sex and nudity to stay clear of the dangers of pharmaceutical medication, Limitless plunges into the murky world of drug addiction, of balancing a mind-unleashing drugs with the after effects of chemicals that can serious alter ones personality and if used correctly one’s path to success. Limitless does not shy away from the notion that all successful and brilliant men, whatever field they achieve their fame, there has been a secret reliance on that all powerful magic pill for success turning mere dreams and ideas into a prominent career and recognition.

Morra shows the effects of the brain boosting drug and the dangers of over reliance on that form of stimulus to achieve a person’s goals. Limitless is an ambivalent take on what drives men to success. Is it their ability to rise above average mediocrity or their reliance on an external booster to achieve fame, fortune and financial superiority in a cut-throat free-market economy, as competitive as that signified by 21st century commercial America and a relentless puritan work ethic?

Limitless is set on the edges of Wall Street, and with a menacing and megalomaniacal performance by Robert de Niro as the financial investor Carl van Loon, Morra is soon drawn into his world of greed, absolute power and a morally devoid fight for survival. Whether Morra transcends van Loon’s world to make his own individual mark on a power hungry society without the aid of questionable narcotics is left up to the audience to ultimately decide. However, the character journey of Morra from a loser unpublished writer, explaining his narrative to bar flys’ in a hazy Manhattan bar at the film’s opening to the confident wealthy and politically ambitious man at the end of the film is remarkable, violent and ethically questionable. If viewers enjoyed The Game, Bad Influence and Wall Street, the original, then Limitless is a film to watch. Lastly as drugs or alcohol is addictive, Limitless shows that the desire for success and wealth in a competitive environment is equally alluring.

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