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Stars: Bradley Cooper, Robert de Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth, Andrew Howard, Patricia Kalember

Director: Neil Burger

'Obviously I miscalculated a few things,' says Eddie (Cooper) as he prepares to jump off the top of a skyscraper at the start of this thriller. The first line in the film, it's one of those quotes destined to turn up in pub quizzes. The film, however, is rather less memorable, a slick-enough remix of familiar elements that tends to peter out at the end.

Dishevelled, disorganised and suffering from writer's block, Eddie is dumped by his girlfriend (Cornish) and faces a bleak future. That is, until he runs into Vern (Whitworth), his ex-brother-in-law, who seems to have smartened up (in more ways than one) and tempts Eddie with a pill called NZT, which he says will change his life.

The pill enables Eddie to use 100% of his brain rather than the normal 20; as a result, he starts racing through his novel. A visit to Vern for more pills leads to the discovery of Vern's dead body, but Eddie is smarter than the killers, and finds Eddie's secret stash of the pills.

Soon enough, our hero is doubling the dose, learning languages in a day, getting Cornish back and moving into the world of high finance, where he meets great white shark Robert de Niro. But what will he do when the pills start to run out and side effects kick in?

Its OK: Cooper metamorphoses nicely from no-hoper to wheeler-dealer, but the girls, Cornish and Friel, have too little to do, and the appearance of a Russian loan shark (Howard) onto the scene - why would Eddie borrow from him when he can make money on the stock exchange? - seems inserted just to add some action sequences towards the end.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Momentum (Paramount). Technicolor.
104 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 18 Mar 2011