Eddie Morra (“The Hangover’s” Bradley Cooper) is down on his luck, way down. A badly blocked writer, he wanders the streets and bars, disheveled and unfocused. Then, he bumps into his dope-dealer, ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who gives him the magic pill and bill-of-goods that it will enable him to use all his brain, not just a fraction of it, like us mortals do.
After popping NZT, Eddie is an instant genius. No, he is more. He’s God. Understanding everything, Eddie immediately flies up the financial ladder, attracting the eye of big-shot tycoon with a Dr. Seuss name, Van Loon (Robert De Niro). Skeptical, but intrigued, Van Loon wants to know what makes Eddie run, and what makes him run out on his meetings.
The fact is, Eddie keeps running out of his dope. This takes the movie from “A Beautiful Mind” meets “Bruce Almighty” to “American Gangster” meets “Goodfellas,” as Eddie is chased by Russian thugs dying to tap into his pipeline.
Director Neil Burger uses a lot of flashy effects to convey Eddie’s “clear” mental state. What’s amazing is that he can figure out the workings of Wall Street, Kung Fu street fighting, multiple foreign languages, but he can’t remember whether he murdered a girl the night before (shades of “The Hangover”).
Like its hero, “Limitless” has no moral compass. Other than some easily overcome withdrawal symptoms, Eddie finds little downside on his yellow-brick road to Utopia through pharmaceuticals. And he never uses his Godliness to benefit the less fortunate.
But that won’t work. Neither does this movie.