American Ultra (2015) Review

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During a routine night at his convenience store job, stoner Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) receives a visit from Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) and speaks to him in a code he does not understand. Later on Mike finds himself with abilities he never knew he had and people trying to kill him. It turns out Mike is a programmed CIA agent that is set to be terminated as he is seen as a threat. With this news unknown to him, Mike goes to his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) and the two are on the run from other programmed agents assigned by the ruthless Adrian Yates (Topher Grace).

American Ultra is promoted to be the newest stoner comedy that is following the shadow of Pineapple Express. However, the film was highly mis-marketed. In all actuality, the film could be generalized as an action-comedy or even a twisted romantic-comedy. From the beginning until the end, the film doesn’t take its sweet time and it doesn’t drag, it’s very much fast paced and entertaining all the way through with plenty of action and some decent laughs. Before the events unfold we are given a great picture of the life Mike and Phoebe have as well as who they are. Though, admittedly there aren’t any but-gusting laughs, more so just a few chuckles or maybe a couple of laugh out loud moments. Teaming up again after being paired in Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart have fantastic chemistry in this film. Despite the stoner aspect, the pair came off as a very genuine and very likable couple. I admit there were several moments in the film between them that were “aww”-worthy. But on the plus side it doesn’t get carried away with the mushy moments. We learn that the couple actually has real problems they’re dealing with, and underneath the stoner exterior are true and humane people who are willing to look after one another. Eisenberg plays Mike with his usual nerd boy ease. At first it doesn’t look like his performance will provide anything great, but during the course of the film we see him as a guy who really has no idea who is or what is going on. Even during his action scenes, he doesn’t change into a brave hero, he really doesn’t know what is happening. But this also doesn’t stop his inner stoner from kicking in at certain moments, and Eisenberg does a fine job at it. Next we have Kristen Stewart, who returns in her first major release film in 3 years after a string of indie films. Hands down this is Stewart’s best performance of her major released films. She’s not playing some boring, pitiful, angsty, teen girl in love with a vampire, she’s playing a real adult character. Although Stewart doesn’t get to really show off her comedic side very much, she more so becomes the crutch for Eisenberg’s character. Stewart plays Phoebe with so much life and genuity that you fall in love with her from the start. You can also tell Stewart really knows her character and what the character is supposed to be feeling and thinking and she never breaks it. We also get to see her bad ass side which we failed to get in Snow White and the Huntsman. Connie Britton provides a comical performance as Eisenberg’s “trainer” so to speak. Britton gets some bad ass moments as well, but she also gets laughs with some of reactions towards the situations she finds herself in with Eisenberg. Finally, there is Topher Grace, whom surprisingly turns in a very solid performance as the douchebag villain. There are many moments where he is just so despicable with some of the things he says to others that you forget he was Eric Forman. Though he also does get some of his comedic abilities in as well. Overall the cast does a great job and play off of each other perfectly.

American Ultra is a film that isn’t trying to be perfect or reach Pineapple Express status. It meant purely to be a fun film with action, comedy, and a sweet love story, and it does not disappoint. Along with this we get a great paired and individual performances from Eisenberg and Stewart, and strong ones from their co-stars. Don’t go into the film expecting it be a hardcore comedy or a typical stoner film. Just go in expecting to have a good time and that’s what you’ll get.

4/5

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