Neil Burger

6.5 The Illusionist (2006)
6.0 The Lucky Ones (2008)
6.8 Limitless (2011)
6.9 The Upside (2019)

Neil Burger debuted with Interview with the Assassin (2002).

The Illusionist (2006)

The war movie The Lucky Ones (2008)

Limitless (2011), based on Alan Glynn's novel "The Dark Fields" (2001), is a powerful thriller until the ridiculous ending.

The film opens in an apartment that is still to be furnished, with unopened boxes everywhere, and someone trying to pry open a steel door. A young man is standing on the handrail of a balcony of one of the top floors of a high-rise building, ready to jump to his death when his neighbor gets shot by an unseen murderer. His flashback starts when he was a struggling writer, addicted to both alcohol and drugs. Eddie locks himself in his room to focus on his book. His girlfriend Lindy dumps him after getting promoted to editor. Walking away from the restaurant where they just met, Eddie runs into Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife Melissa, somebody he hasn't seen in nine years. Eddie confesses that he cannot write and Vernon, who used to be a drug dealer, gives him a pill of a new chemical called NZT-48. Eddie swallows the pill. He meets the landlord's young wife on the stairs to his apartment and, while she is threatening to evict him, the pill kicks in: suddenly he remembers details from his college years that may be useful for the paper she has to write for law school. She stops yelling at him and listens careful, and later she even has sex with him. Eddie finishes the manuscript in record time and delivers it to his agent, who loves it. Eddie visits Vernon to get more pills and finds him in a terrible mood, his face badly punched. Vernon asks Eddie to do some chores for him, since he cannot leave the house with a bloody face. When Eddie returns to Vernon's apartment, he finds the apartment turned upside down and Vernon murdered. Eddie guesses that the killer wanted the magic pill. Eddie calls the police to report the murder but then wears gloves and frantically searches the apartment for the pills until he finds them in the oven. The police are suspicious but let Eddie go. Vernon's sister Melissa, which is Eddie's ex-wife, briefly calls him. Eddie now has an unlimited supply of pills. He makes money and changes look, becoming an elegant yuppie. He realizes that he can win at cards, learn languages, and master any topic. He realizes that he can see patterns of the stock market that others cannot. He needs money to invest and borrows from a Russian loan shark, Gennady. The pills allow him to learn at stratospheric speed. He makes a fortune in just a couple of weeks. Brokerage firms compete to hire him. Newspapers talk about his rapid ascent in the financial world. His ex-girlfriend Lindy is shocked and amazed and gladly becomes his girlfriend again. Eddie has the feeling that someone is following him. A famous tycoon invites him to lunch, curious about Eddie's secret. Eddie impresses him by guessing that the tycoon is working on a colossal merger. Eddie further impresses him by showing him a fault in his plan. After the meeting Eddie walks around the city. Suddenly he realizes that he has been walking for hours. He gets into a fight with a group of punks and knocks them out based on kungfu instructions he saw on television. He finds himself in a pub and then at a party. Then he has sex with a sexy blond. And finally he finds himself on a bridge staring at the view. He has spent 18 hours wandering around the city with no control over his actions. When he gets home, he realizes he doesn't have any pills anymore, and without pills he can't make sense of the tycoon's business. Urged to still meet the tycoon at a restaurant, Eddie sits in front of him not even hearing what he is saying but notices on the TV screen the news that the sexy blond (his one-night stand) has been murdered in a hotel room. He leaves the restaurant with no explanation. Desperate to get his hands on more pills, Eddie starts calling numbers that he found in Vernon's phone book: all of them are hospitalized or already dead. He feels again that a man has been following him and this time the man starts running after him but cannot catch him. Eddie meets Melissa in a restaurant. She tells him that she too took the pill until she got sick. She knows that people have died of it. Her mind is permanently damaged. She warns him to reduce the doses. Back home he finds Gennady, the Russian loan shark, who demands his money. Eddie goes to the bank and gives him the cash but during the contact the Russian steals one pill from him. Later, Eddie collapses in Lindy's office and has to confess the whole story to her because... Eddie hid the remaining pills in her house. She takes a taxi to her home and picks up the pills for Eddie. She realizes that she is followed by the same man who has been following him. She runs through a park. The man chasing her kills two men who try to help her. She calls Eddie, desperate for help. Eddie suggests that she takes a pill because it will help her find a solution. She takes a pill and suddenly she calms down and figures out how to escape. Rather than being grateful that the pill saved her life, she is terrified and breaks up with him. Another problem is that Gennady wants more of the drug. Eddie has to hire two bodyguards. Eddie returns to the tycoon and the tycoon forgives him because Eddie presents him with data that the experts missed. The tycoon hires him. Knowing that he will eventually run out of pills, Eddie offers a huge sum of money to a scientist if he can make identical pills within six months. A detective shows up telling him that a witness identified him as the person who killed the sexy blond. Eddie has to hire a famous lawyer. Eddie also moves to a new apartment in a high-rise building that offers top security. However, his problems escalate: Gennady blackmails him, threatening to testify against him, and the mysterious man who has been following him and tried to kill Lindy turns out to be the chaffeur of the businessman with whom the tycoon is about to sign an important contract. That businessman is hospitalized and Eddie guesses that he was taking the same pills. While Eddie is being interrogated by the police, his attorney steals the remaining pills from his jacket. The tycoon is freaking out because someone has leaked the deal before it was signed, and the media are covering this news nonstop. Eddie is out of control because he doesn't have pills and just at that moment someone delivers a box with him that contains the severed hands of his two bodyguards, presumably the work of Gennady's thugs. Eddie sees on TV that the hospitalized businessman's wife, escorted by his own lawyer, has decided not to sign the contract. Just then someone rings the bell and then tries to open the steel door. We now realized we are seeing the first scene of the film. He sees in the security camera that it is Gennady with his thugs. Eddie is ready to jump from the building but at the last second changes his mind. Gennady and his men break into the apartment. Gennady explains that he has been shooting the pills directly into his bloodstream for maximum effect. Gennady, convinced that Eddie is hiding more, pulls out his tools of torture, but Eddie grabs a steak knife and kills him. Eddie then has the idea of drinking Gennady's blood, which is pouring out of Gennady's body, blood which is full of the drug. The power of the drug hits right away and Eddie outsmarts and kills Gennady's thugs who have been searching the other rooms. The hospitalized businessman dies. Eddie realizes that this dying man had paid his chaffeur to find more pills, and that's why the chaffeur was following him all the time. Eddie confronts the chaffeur and makes a deal with him: the chaffeur kills the attorney and Eddie searches his apartment until he finds the pills that the attorney stole from his jacket at the police station. One year goes by. The pills have turned Eddie into a rich man, a bestselling author and a politician running for the senate. He doesn't work for the tycoon anymore, but the tycoon visits him. The tycoon has acquired the laboratory that is making the pills for Eddie and blackmails him: if Eddie wants a limitless supply, he has to help him once he gets elected. Eddie proves to the tycoon that he can see the future and doesn't need the tycoon's pills: he has improved the pills and makes them somewhere else. Eddie has lunch with Lindy, who obviously has come to accept his drug-based success.

Divergent (2014) is based on Veronica Roth's novel "Divergent".

The Upside (2019) is a Hollywood remake of a remake of Olivier Nakache's and Eric Toledano's film The Intouchables (2011).

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