There are side-effects to NZT, though. As Eddie separates from his stash he's struck by crippling headaches, vomiting and prolonged blackouts. Taking the drug becomes essential, without it Eddie is unable to continue his #totalbitchinrockstarfrommars lifestyle. He also sees his intelligence regress to that of a mere mortal. It's a story that dances close to the paranoid thrillers of the '70s, yet one that's thankfully well aware of just how ludicrous it is. Take it too seriously and the whole enterprise would crumble, however director Neil Burger and screenwriter Leslie Dixon unfurl the action at a brisk pace with one eye looking to mine the situations for humour. "Don't wear black, this isn't The Matrix," Eddie tells two brutish bodyguards he's about to hire for protection.
Director Burger finds visually inventive ways to illustrate the moments when Eddie's synapses are firing. Ceiling tiles flip to show letters and numbers as he trades the stock market, imagined duplicates allow him to expertly multitask and letters fall from above as he hammers out his book manuscript. Cooper has the kind of inherent smugness necessary to make this role work. He's the smartest wise-cracker in the room, making you want to both be him and throttle him. Call it #AdonisDNAenvy. His co-stars Cornish and Anna Friel (as Eddie's NZT-addicted ex-wife Melissa) only register nominally in the token girl roles, while De Niro brings the required gravitas to his small but important part.
Limitless is a deliriously loopy thrill-ride but all the better for it. The cast and filmmakers happily embrace the silliness, particularly in the final third when Eddie seemingly drinks #tigerblood (you'll understand when you see it) to get himself back up and running. Burger skirts around more serious issues such as the price of addiction and the effect it has on loved ones. This never quite gels with the more preposterous plot points (of which there are many!), yet events are hardly dull as the movie presents a gleefully deranged take on living the American Dream. This is about as daft as popcorn entertainment gets... just make sure you don't neck a clear pill before going in otherwise it'll all be for nothing.