2011 Bradley Cooper-starrer Limitless was a decent enough suspense thriller, but its 105-minute length didn’t allow much time for exploring the concept on which its plot revolves: a designer drug called NZT that turns the user into Sherlock on speed. Over 22 episodes, this spin-off series had ample opportunity to debate the pros and cons of using chemistry to enhance human potential.
As it is, the amount of imagination that appears to have gone into it doesn’t do justice to the title it inherited. In the movie, Cooper’s struggling writer, Eddie Morra, turns into Super-Yuppie when he’s on the pill, but goes into meltdown when hasn’t taken it. Although pitched as a sequel, the pilot replicates the source material aside from introducing a new hopped-up hero, Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), a failed musician.
Finch is introduced to NZT by an old friend who, true to form, is soon murdered. Instead of aiming for political office like Morra, however, Finch is recruited by the FBI as a consultant. He doesn’t display the psychotic side effects that the Bureau’s previous NZT test subjects exhibited, so they hook him up with a daily dose and an upscale New York apartment and try to figure out why he’s not ripping his eyes out.
What Finch’s FBI handlers, Agents Harris and Boyle (Jennifer Carpenter and Hill Harper), don’t realise is that he is only able to hold it together because Morra, now a Senator, is giving him an antidote to his addiction in return for certain favours. Cooper does appear in a few episodes, but more often than not Morra’s interests are represented by Colin Salmon, who has more charisma than everyone else put together.
The worst crime in Limitless, though, is that the scripts largely ignore the ethical boundaries the FBI is crossing and the wider social implications of NZT in favour of detective stories that are quirky rather than clever. The result is another mundane procedural that gives genre fans nothing new.