Bradley Cooper is Eddie Morra, an author with writer's block in New York City. His girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) dumps him. At this stellar moment of his life, his ex-brother-in-law Vernon he hasn't seen in several years shows up and gives him the proverbial "first one's free," a new drug called NZT. Eddie discovers that on it he has incredible focus and recall, and in a few hours has entirely cleaned his apartment and written a chapter of his new book. But then it's back to being normal, and he needs more. So he returns to Vernon, only to find he's been murdered. He reports the murder ... and then hunts out the stash that the murderers missed. It only gets messier from there.
For someone who claims in the first minute of the film to have a "four digit IQ," he's incredibly blind about the consequences of the drug, his limited supply, where it came from, his meteoric and public rise, the idea that loan sharks might be a bad idea, and just about everything else. I wondered for a bit if the point of the movie was that someone who was willfully blind and self-destructive when they had a normal IQ would remain both those things with a higher IQ and only find a grander way to self-destruct, but it didn't quite play out that way. The movie also didn't address the fact that any other NZT user could have done exactly what Eddie did (or claimed to have done) by the end of the movie (which of course I can't explain without spoilers).
Coming back to the movie's characters ... Eddie is a dick and I had a lot of trouble rooting for him (I get that that's not necessarily the point, but if we've got to watch him for the entire movie ...). The end result was a restless and rather obnoxious movie that wasn't particularly well thought out.
A human being with a "normal" IQ (ie. anyone on this planet now, including the screenplay authors and the author of the book this was originally based on) are - in my opinion - unable to write about hyper-intelligent humans. It's a little like asking a dog to write about the experience of being human. They could perhaps spin a good story, but the second a reader spotted a logical error ... the whole thing goes up in smoke.
SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING NOW, etc. as I'm about to discuss the ending. As I mentioned, Eddie Morra is shown to be willfully blind and self-destructive even when on NZT. But at the end of the movie we've jumped forward in time and if we're to believe Eddie, he's managed to get off NZT while retaining most of the mental ability, thus neatly avoiding the blackmail trap set by his former mentor (played by Robert De Niro). The problem is ... this suggests a complete reversal from his previous behaviour, a reversal we don't see and weren't given any hint of. It's also not clear if he's even telling the truth: he could have said what he did to avoid being blackmailed. Which makes this seem like either a really shitty wrap-up or a huge hint at a sequel. What we got instead was a one season TV show, with Bradley Cooper as the infrequently seen antagonist ...