[Duh, spoiler alert]
The movie irritated me for a lot of reasons. It continues a trend I've noticed with surprising frequency lately, which is for films to set up a morality tale or tragic hero, and then fail to pull the trigger on them in the climax, instead spinning some wildly improbable sequence that saves the protagonist at the clutch moment and completely undercuts the rest of the story. This is a story about cheating, right? About performance-enhancing drugs?
But the truth is I wanted Eddie Morra, the protagonist, to die for reasons beyond simply fulfilling an anti-drug morality tale. Eddie isn't a sympathetic character; he's a narcissistic asshole who uses everyone he knows but never gives anything back. The beginning of the film establishes that he's supporting his failing writer lifestyle mainly by using his girlfriend as a "maid" and a "bank." When he gets his hands on NZT, his miracle drug, instead of trying to better humankind or repay all the people he's been leeching on for the last 20 years or even just furthering his art form by becoming a great writer, he tosses aside all that writer-ly philosophizing for the lifestyle of How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson. He takes out a loan from a Russian shark and makes a boatload of cash on it, yet doesn't bother to repay the loan for reasons that are left unexplained. He meets his ex-wife, "the one that got away," only to discover that NZT destroyed her life. While he commiserates with her at a diner for all of 10 minutes, he never lifts a finger to help her despite already being stupidly rich by this point. She exists only to warn him of the hazards of the drug, apparently.
Instead, he uses his newfound super-smarts to charm his way back into his girlfriend's heart, but continues to engage in 18 hour benders complete with disappearing for entire nights and nailing multitudes of underwear models on the side. Funny story: one of those models ends up dead in his hotel room that night, and he has no memory of the night's events since fugue is apparently a side effect of the drug. He wonders if he killed her, the cops believe he did, and indeed he may well have, but that little incident is never resolved either way. Over the rest of the movie, he leaves a trail of corpses including his own two bodyguards, puts his girlfriend in mortal danger and forces her to take NZT, and almost certainly destroys the career of the guy at the day-trading agency who stuck his neck out to get him an interview with the head of the company.
In the end, he pays for none of these transgressions and feels no regrets. He's even running for Senate and still enjoying his money, his girlfriend, and some residual enhancement from his NZT-popping days. How lovely for him.