Release Date: August 21, 2015
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Writer: Max Landis
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale, Stuart Greer, Michael Papajohn, Monique Ganderton, Nash Edgerton, Paul Andrew O’Connor, Freddie Poole, Ilram Choi, James Bendishaw, Lavell Crawford, Sam Malone
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes
Production Company: Lionsgate, PalmStar Media, The Bridge Finance Company, Circle of Confusion, FilmNation Entertainment, Likely Story, Merced Media Partners, PalmStar Entertainment
Genre: Action, Comedy
I get really tired of seeing the same premise on the big screen, so it’s nice to stir the pot every once in a while. It really doesn’t matter what genres you decide to blend as long as the story is compelling and the characters are strong. So when the marketing machine for ‘American Ultra’ started labeling it a marriage between the Bourne franchise and ‘Pineapple Express’ I was intrigued but skeptical. It was a neat idea and had potential to be a cult classic, but that may just depend on who you are, and what you’re looking for. You also have to ask what said filmmaker is aiming to produce, and if it’s just a throw away comedy with a few good laughs you may have had a winner. I had fun this time but can’t recommend. I would watch it again but I wouldn’t buy.
Two things I never thought would go together is a pot smoking stoner and an elite government sleeper cell assassin. On paper it sounds ridiculous, but is still fascinating on camera. Though Jessie Eisenberg was able to pull it off with minimal effort. If you’re a fan of Eisenberg’s work you may have a good time, but if not he doesn’t deliver anything new. He’s accused of never elevating his tone, but that’s just how he emotes. He’s not a character actor and often plays himself in different outfits, and with me being a fan I wasn’t bothered. There’s no grand back story for his character, but there is enough for you to feel sorry for him. He’s an innocent guy who just wants to be happy with his girlfriend, played by Kristen Stewart. She gets a lot of unnecessary hate, but she held her own as she always does.
The action present really isn’t action in my opinion. I feel more comfortable calling it “accidents.” I say that becuase Eisenberg’s character doesn’t have any true fighting skills, to say the least, but still finds away comes out victorious. I’ve never seen an action scene where the protagonist comes out winning, but has no confidence in his abilities. It’s hilarious and surprisingly works. The thought of him being a sleeper agent was also well executed, making me think these people could be everywhere. When a film can intrigue my mind as such I find it exciting.
What ruined the experience from me was Topher Grace’s character. He was clearly picked on as a child (his character), and it’s apparent that all he focused on is power and inflicting pain on his surrounding parties to cope. Instead of acting he’s screaming on set which makes him even more unlikeable. What’s mind boggling is someone of his stature receiving such high ranks in the CIA with the authority to launch missiles across the country. He was a distraction and brought nothing to the picture other than unsettling feelings.
If it’s not obvious from the trailers, ‘American Ultra’ is a dumb fun pot smoking comedy that can’t be taken seriously. I laughed, had fun, and if nothing else Jessie Eisenberg mishaps were a nice addition. There’s something about his personality that shines on screen for this particular role, and it fits tight like a glove. Sure there’s a plot point or two that doesn’t add up, but with the marketed story it’s shocking if anyone would really care.