Starring Bradley Cooper as a failed writer who is given an intellect and mind enhancing drug by his brother in law. He develops great intellectual powers and visits this brother in law who has been murdered. He takes the drugs and uses them to get into high finance under Robert de Niro’s mentorship. He is pursued by someone from a rival outfit who also uses this drug. His girlfriend is pursued and escapes by using the wonder drug. Bradley has sex with a women who is murdered and he may be the murderer. He owes money to a Russian gangster who takes the drug and pursues Bradley for more. Bradley gets the better of him and then outwits de Niro. Bradley takes regular doses of the wonderdrug and escapes the fatal fate of the other users. He becomes a senator.
A pretty daft film which is good fun. It’s a bit like that John Trevolta film where he becomes very intelligent, and it is also of course a familiar sci-fi story: the Faustian pact with the devil and all that. It’s also a reminder of Gremlins and Spiderman; be careful with that gift, use it responsibly for the common good. This is supposed to express good old American precepts: that good fortune, happiness, money, and any other success should all be earned and not be a matter of luck. If these wonders are given, you have a great responsibilty, if you use it for self gain you will perish. It’s also a reworking of the Midas myth. It’s a part of our folk wisdom, the desire for something is inherently good in itself but the ending of desire is simple minded satiety. Any wish must stay unsatisfied in order to promote striving and challenge, its fulfilment must be judiciously spared and be a platform for further effort, if not, it leads to the evil of moral deregulation or self cannibalism in a weary self disgust. In this story our hero never stops learning and he delights in his powers so he doesn’t do the decent thing and die. There is no domestication of super talents as in the TV series Heroes, this guy can live with his luck. In his case there are no consequences, we remember Samuel L Jackson lecturing that global base jumper on the consequences he must pay for.
The voice of striving humanity’s efforts is supplied by de Niro who lectures Bradley on the need for effort and the overcoming of obstacles to appreciate one’s success. This is pretty rich coming from an overly powerful business moghul.
There are implausibilities in the plot: when Bradley’s would-be Russian nemesis catches up with him, he is on the superdrug yet Bradley is not, so the Russian criminal should be able to outwit Bradley, but he can’t. Did Bradley murder the woman during his blackout? He hires a lawyer who comes up with weak circumstantial evidence and he gets him off. What happened, did he kill her? It’s a bit like Adjustment Bureau in that it turns New York into a cinematic base jumping contest. Are New Yorkers getting the message that they must ‘touch the hero within themselves’ in order to rise above paranoia about terrorism? Is computerised cinema just getting too impatient with the industrial constraints on our lives? Maybe they’re trying to turn the 21st century cityscape into a drugrush because we can’t hope to reach the millions of stories in the human hive. I’ll settle for endless stories without hi-tech gimmicks, please.