American Ultra

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American Ultra


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Official Synopsis
Small-town stoner Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) spends most of his time getting high and writing a graphic novel about a superhero monkey. What Mike doesn't know is that he was trained by the CIA to be a lethal killing machine. When the agency targets him for termination, his former handler activates his latent skills, turning the mild-mannered slacker into a deadly weapon. Now, the utterly surprised Mike must use his newfound abilities to save himself and his girlfriend from getting wasted.
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American Ultra reunites Jesse Eisenberg with his Adventureland Co-Star Kristen Stewart, in a stoner comedy-action-thriller-spy film. The story follows a stoner (Eisenberg) who is in fact a government agent who doesn’t know that he is. When he is marked as a liability to the government’s program, he is targeted for extermination. When his original trainer, played by actress Connie Britton, activates him, he becomes a highly trained killing machine, and the government deploys any means necessary to eliminate him, while all he really wants is to do is propose to his loving Girlfriend (Stewart). The film, directed by Nima Nourizadeh, has a few laughs throughout, and decent performances, but suffers from a lack of known identity. It seems that the Nourizadeh doesn’t know what tone or genre he wanted this film to be. As well, the writer, Max Landis, didn’t know where to really go with the finish. With shaky cam action and a lack of character development, American Ultra will fall a little short this weekend.

What Worked

Oddly enough, the stand out in this film is Kristen Stewart. An actress that is ridiculed for not only not having any facial expression, but literally no personality in her films, shows tremendous range in this outing. I really enjoyed her character arch, and where they went with her. She has emotional responses to each situation in each scene, and she pretty much carry’s the film. Another stand out is Topher Grace. While the character is overly cartoony, and doesn’t necessarily fit in the film, he is kind of fun to watch and be around.  John Leguizamo is always a joy to see on camera, his minor cameo is a lot of fun.

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The rest of the cast is functional. Nothing impressive or stand outish, but functional. I don’t think anyone else could’ve done better with the roles, for each of them feel like they were written for different films, and just thrown in here, so the cast is a moot point.

When the jokes and situational comedy hit, they are funny. There were numerous times that I found myself laughing at Eisenberg playing this stoner who finds himself in an awkward situation and has no idea how he knows how to handle himself. While what seems as just muscle memory, he does some pretty brutal kills. It is violent and fun to see. It is almost a cross between Pineapple Express and Kick-Ass.

What Didn’t

The problem mostly lies in the filming and story of American Ultra. The action sequences are shot with amazingly annoying shaky cam technique. Which directors who don’t know how to shoot action correctly try to pass off weak action scenes in an obnoxious style. Choppy editing makes some of the action hard to follow, and what could be really fun action sequences are ruined by lazy film making.

The story is all over the place, it goes from stoner comedy, to action comedy, to dramatic thriller, back to stoner comedy, to violent action, and then to spy thriller. It is just way to over the top at times and then suddenly grounded. While there are funny moments, they are split between a boring story arch that revolves around Connie Britton’s character and another CIA Operative played by Tony Hale that was completely cartoony and took me out of the film every time he was on screen. Every character in the film feels like they were written for a different genre of film or a different movie all together.

Kristen American Ultra Large

While Eisenberg does a good job at being the stoner, he is still just Jesse Eisenberg on weed. There is nothing special or new to this character, and the development of him is weak. And all though Topher Grace is fun when he is on screen, he is a complete cartoon, and doesn’t fit in the world around him. Bill Pullman’s overly serious character is a waste of his cameo and even in his small screen time, is over used, and almost unimportant.

Editor review

1 reviews

Lacking Substance
(Updated: August 20, 2015)
Overall rating 
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All in all American Ultra is a passable film that has a few laughs but falls short when it comes to substance. While it was nice to see Kristen Stewart actually does some decent acting, that isn’t enough to actually make the film a good one. What about you all? Are you planning on catching American Ultra this weekend, or another film? Sound off in the comments, and as always, keep on nerding.
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