Movie Review: American Ultra


The trailer for American Ultra looked awesome, plus I love Jesse Eisenberg and Topher Grace. Unfortunately, although the film's premise was interesting, its execution was mediocre, and it's a film I'd recommend saving for a matinee.

Stoners Mike (Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) live together in a tiny town in West Virginia, which they usually never leave; Mike gets panic attacks when they try to leave town, even by car and not plane. Their lives are normal, for the most part, until one day when a strange lady (Connie Britton) stops by the convenience store where Mike works and says something that sounds like nonsense to him; in reality, she's a CIA agent, and he was too, as part of a special program for third-time drug offenders, and he's just been "activated." The reason she does this is because another CIA agent, Yates (Topher Grace) has decided that Mike is no longer needed, and should be assassinated. Mike effortlessly kills the agents that Yates sends after him, and soon realizes that he has lots of fighting skills that until that second, he previously didn't know he possessed. Mike and Phoebe go on the run from the agents, and must try to escape the town, even though Yates has effectively roadblocked all the exits.

This film reminded me of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World meets Pineapple Express meets Kingsman: The Secret Service, and although overall it was interesting, they could have done much more with the plot. Jesse Eisenberg (whom I recently saw in The End of the Tour) is becoming one of those Streep-like chameleon actors - ie, he can take on any role and be believable in it - and I enjoyed him here as a stoner who was secretly recruited for the CIA. Stewart was fine here as his stoner girlfriend, but I never really believed Topher Grace as "the bad guy" - I think this is the first time I've seen him play a "bad guy" in a movie, so perhaps that's why. Britton was fine also as the CIA operative who is trying to save Eisenberg's character. The standout for me in this movie was actually John Leguizamo, who has a small role as Eisenberg's character's dealer; he was so weird and quirky and pretty much owned the role.

Maybe see this film. I was a little disappointed in it, but it's fine if you're looking for something to do or going to see a matinee. It's definitely different from other movies I've seen recently, but style-wise it was very similar to Scott Pilgrim. With a cast that talented, I expected better from the film, but in this case it was the fault of the script and not of the cast's acting.

American Ultra is in theaters today, August 21st, and is rated R with a runtime of 95 minutes. 2.5 stars out of 5.

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