In honour of Friday the 13th, Riva author Heidi Rice is going a bit off-piste and recommending an edgy thriller instead of a soft and fluffy romance... But there is Bradley Cooper and his blue eyes to keep die-hard romantics entertained.
It has to be said, that while I'm never averse to a bit of Bradley Cooper appreciation (the man is certainly easy on the eye), I did have a few misgivings about Limitless, because it sounded like a fairly guy-orientated thriller, ie: a film with a lot more head than heart. And while it's certainly got a lot of clever ideas, it also has a brilliant moral dilemma at it's certain that kept me on the edge of my seat. Namely, how far would you go to gain and then maintain dazzling success?
The plot revolves around one of those fiendishly clever ideas that sounds simple on the surface — nice but lazy guy gets pill that makes him super-smart and super-successful, but becomes a lot less nice in the process — but then throws up that fascinatingly complex dilemma, not to mention some heart-pounding suspense and kick-ass action. As Bradley becomes addicted to the pills, and the lifestyle they afford him, he is forced to do increasingly seedy things to sustain his supply — hooking up with all manner of low-lifes and corporate sharks (enter Robert De Niro in a soulless cameo which he pulls off with typical aplomb). And then he discovers that there may be devastating side-effects as well (an almost unrecognisable Anna Friel provides the graphic example of what could go wrong). Will he use up all his brain power and end up old beyond his years, or worse dead?
It's a cautionary tale about the pursuit of success at all costs, designer drug addiction and the amorality of the world's financial community (well, there had to be a banker villain in their somewhere)... Or at least it appears to be right up to the rather annoying ending, which I wasn't convinced by. But you'll have to make up your own mind about that, cos I don't want to give the game away here. Surfice it to say, a lot of people end up dead who didn't deserve it (and quite a few that did), but the film seems happy to treat them as collateral damage.
That said, up until that disappointing and somewhat inconsistent final switcheroo, the film has this brilliant gritty tension about it — cleverly aided by some CSI-style pathology porn. And like all great suspense thrillers, that tension keeps ramping up and up and up, as Cooper's life spirals out of control under the influence of a drug which is controlling him and not the other way around. Not only that, but the adrenaline-rush of watching Brad 'think' his way out of every crisis soon makes the audience as addicted as he is.
And I have to say, Cooper is expertly cast. First as the deadbeat failed writer with a dodgy grunge hairdo who's too lazy to finish his manuscript (although how he managed to get a publishing contract without having written any of the book is anyone's guess) who quickly finds himself totally out of his depth. And then again as the sleek and super-slick wheeler dealer whose sharp clothes, chiselled good looks and luminous blue eyes hide a hideous secret (Dorian Gray eat your heart out!). I also liked his girlfriend played by Abbie Cornish, who plays the moral heart of the film, but also gets a kick-ass action scene of her own when she has to escape the ruthless assasin Bradley has inadvertently sicc'd on her.
And then of course there's De Niro, sleepwalking through his cameo but still making an impression and Friel - going above and beyond the call of method acting and looking convincing dreadful (can't imagine why they couldn't get a Hollywood actress to take this part?).
Add popcorn and you've got a great Friday Film Night, in my humble opinion.
Heidi is currently hard at work on her latest Riva. Her curent Presents Extra, Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger is out in the US, and its linked book, Cupcakes and Killers Heels, is out in the UK as a Riva, now. Come have a natter on her blog, Facebook, website or on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice)