A mysterious drug called NZT drives the plot of "Limitless," starring Bradley Cooper ("The Hangover") as a boozy slacker who discovers better living through chemistry. The fictional drug's benefits include increased energy, creativity, intelligence and confidence.
"I wasn't high, I wasn't wired, I was clear," says Cooper's awestruck Eddie Morra. "I knew what I needed to do and how to do it."
Sounds great! In fact, this substance is probably available on a street corner near you under the code name "cocaine." The breathless tone of "Limited," however, suggests that nobody in Hollywood has ever heard of it. And somehow, that seems unlikely.
Cooper is a perfect choice for Morra: He has the good looks of a lifelong coaster, and his blue eyes light up convincingly when he's popping pills. Morra does what most of us probably would if suddenly possessed of a "four-digit" IQ: He writes that novel, wins back the girl (Abbie Cornish) and hits the stock market, where he draws the attention of ruthless financier Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro).
Morra and the movie share a problem: They're not as smart as they think. Morra unwisely borrows money from a violent Russian mobster (an amusing Andrew Howard) and nearly depletes his stash of NZT-48 before getting this brainstorm: Make more! As for the film, its director, Neil Burger ("The Illusionist"), can't decide whether he's making a moody thriller or a rollicking satire. (It's based on a novel by Alan Glynn.)
The movie's limited idea of intelligence becomes clearest when Morra goes into -- you guessed it -- politics. Is that really where the smart people go?