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Review: 'Limitless' 'reminds' us that mystery brain drugs can have dangerous side effects

** (out of four)

Depressed by his writer’s block and sloppy appearance, Eddie (Bradley Cooper) tries out an untested, Adderall-esque brain-enhancer that turns him into Total Focused Awesomeness. It also gives him an insatiable need to keep achieving that makes him like a personified version of the movie “Speed.” You know what they say about something that seems too good to be true, however, so count on this guy’s style of enhanced living to create consequences for his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) and a powerful financial mogul (Robert De Niro) who marvels at Eddie’s ultra-fast deductive abilities.

The buzz: Director Neil Burger has proven himself to be very limited, actually, recently failing to bring to life the stories of a lovelorn magician (“The Illusionist”) or road-tripping war vets (“The Lucky Ones”). Writer Leslie Dixon, on the other hand, who adapted “Limitless” from a book by Alan Glynn, has tackled everything from the entertaining “Hairspray” remake to the abominable “Pay It Forward” and remake of “The Heartbreak Kid.” Who knows what we’re in for?

The verdict: An interesting idea weakly executed for the PG-13 crowd, which, sorry, means no tips from Eddie’s newfound expertise with the ladies in and out of the bedroom. The thrill-less “Limitless” offers zero unexpected wrinkles in its hero’s “Wall Street”-like rise and fall, yet involves constant voiceover as if Eddie needs to explain what even sleeping viewers couldn’t miss. The film also embraces the idea of constructing your entire persona out of something unnaturally obtained, as if saying, “Go for it, Hollywood stars considering plastic surgery!” A murder and obvious infidelity are shrugged off while Cooper turns Eddie, whose life is a swagger except for when he’s puking, into a bland stud who is 20 steps ahead when he’s not in complete denial about what he’s doing. If this guy were really in command of all his previous experiences (watching Bruce Lee movies 20 years ago now informs his master fighting technique), he’d know better than to take out a loan from a generic Russian goon. Does that ever turn out well?

Did you know? Burger fails to draw out the twisted-yet-literal humor of Eddie receiving a box marked “hand delivery” that actually contains human hands. Sorry if you now expect that every time you receive a package via any means besides the mail.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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