American Ultra (2015)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo
Directed By: Nima Nourizadeh
Written By: Max Landis
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 1 hr 35 min
American Ultra has two distinct components. The first is a touching love story between two seemingly aimless stoners amidst a world of CIA operations, and covert sleeper agents. The second is an internal government power struggle between a career climbing desk jockey, and the former supervisor of said sleeper agent program.
The reason why I can’t recommend American Ultra is due to that second component.
As delivered, it forces a real life government organization (the CIA) into behaving in an unrealistic way. Constantly stomping over the boundaries of credulity to inject action or drama into the plot. I’m sure the CIA is quite capable of pulling off the occasional nefarious mission. But I highly doubt they would drone a suburban American home, right after sending in their own people on foot. Or put an unhinged man-brat in charge of a mission to kill a sleeper agent, and allow him to use a team of mentally unstable ‘tough guy assets’ to do it. Resulting in the deaths of several civilians, including police officers.
Nothing about the driving force behind this movie’s plot makes any sense, and this nonsensical content gets in the way of this film’s strengths. That being the great chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. The idea of a hapless stoner being ‘activated’ to become a super-capable government spy, is a good one, and the casting of Eisenberg – genius! It’s just a shame the production’s assets were not fully utilized, and the film’s weakest elements were given so much screen time.
This is designed to be a light fun action adventure, and does deliver some laughs. The action is reasonably well shot in places, and the Eisenberg/Stewart team up and screen time is certainly entertaining. If you can forgive the movie’s more fantastical contrivances, it’s possible you’d find this worth the price of a movie ticket. It’s rated R for scenes of bloody violence, drug use and bad language.
This could wait for a HD rental at home to watch on a nice big TV.
Best Moment: << spoiler! >>
During the film, Eisenberg’s character, Mike, has been planning to propose to Phoebe (Stewart), but can never seem to find the perfect moment to do it. When he does finally get around to it, the setting for the grand proposal is hardly what you call ideal, but it is one of the film’s funnier moments.