Year: 2011
Production Co: Relativity Media
Director: Neil Burger
Producer: Leslie Dixon
Writer: Leslie Dixon
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish

Director Neil Burger bought a great sepia-toned mood to The Illusionist, one that really suited the film. Here he's just as visual but the result is more like an overexcited dog that's been let off a leash. There's no rhyme or reason behind the flourishes and most of the time I found them irritating.

They might have suited the proceedings more except that the whole movie had no cohesive tone, from the plot to the script to the characterisations. I thought it was a drama until hero Eddie (Cooper) gets his hot and angry landlady into bed, then I thought it was a comedy until he starts licking blood off the ground after killing a gun-toting goon.

We meet Ed as a scruffy loser trying to write a novel when an old family acquaintance shows up offering him a miracle drug that will let Eddie use his entire brain rather than 10 percent (a common and overly simplistic cultural meme about neurology). When he does, he's transformed into a cack-handed rendition of his better self – haircut, sharp suits, more success with chicks, his book finished and new riches thanks to his burgeoning career in the stock market.

From there the whole film goes off the narrative rails. It emerges that the drug has nefarious origins and that the side effects of getting off it are terrible and possibly fatal. He gets mixed up with characters from the Buffet-like investor Carl (De Niro) to a fearsome Russian loanshark and I had a lot of trouble sticking with it as both the story and the tone careered from one extreme to the other.

It's never quite clear what the story is trying to say and when I realised this was Cooper's first real starring role I thought he could have picked a better project.

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