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American Ultra Review


What if Jason Bourne lost his memory not because of head trauma, but because he was a massive stoner? That’s the question screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle, the upcoming Victor Frankenstein) asks with American Ultra, and he and director Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) provide a pretty entertaining answer, for the most part at least, with this intriguing stoner comedy/action hybrid.

Jesse Eisenberg is Mike Howell, an unmotivated stoner happy to waste his days getting high with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). What he doesn’t know is that he is the last remaining subject of a CIA program to create lethal sleeper agents, which sees him targeted for termination by smarmy company man Adrian Yates (Topher Grace). With his programming hidden beneath a haze of pot smoke, Mike must take down the highly trained government agents sent to kill him and save the day.

So, yeah, American Ultra is pretty high (geddit?) concept, but Landis’ witty script and Nourizadeh’s stylish direction makes for a great combination, leading to an action comedy that never outstays its welcome. The story takes its time to get going, making sure we’re all comfortable before letting loose with the ultra violent action, everything from spoons and frying pans used to dispatch Mike’s attackers in satisfyingly fun ways. For a unique the concept is, events soon settle into a generic rhythm, harking back to any number of action movies we’ve seen countless times before. It’s slightly frustrating that American Ultra can’t seem to fully shirk off the usual action movie trappings, headache inducing camera work included, but it still adds up to a fun time. The story doesn’t stop to catch its breath once it kicks into high gear, leading to a fantastic mega store battle that could give The Equalizer’s home depot massacre a run for its money. Unfortunately, it can hold onto the energy it began with, and soon fizzles out, leading to an ending that we could see coming from the opening frame.

Eisenberg may not be your first choice for an action hero, but he is incredibly likable and somewhat charming as the increasingly bewildered Mike, almost tripping his way through the set pieces, pulling out skills he can’t really explain. Much of the humour comes form his questioning the over the top events he finds himself in the middles of, and he’ll never fail to make you chuckle. He has good chemistry with Stewart (their second time acting opposite each other after Adventureland), and she makes Phoebe something much more than the usual damsel in distress. Grace makes for a great ass hole bad guy, but shouting at Mike’s antics from the safety of a CIA control centre is all he seems there for. Connie Britton and Bill Pullman don’t do much, but they play the roles they're given well, with Pullman delivering what has to the best line of the movie as the ending credits beckon.

American Ultra’s unique premise deserves something more than a generic action movie execution its saddled with, but still delivers entertaining, goofy fun.


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The Movie Bit: American Ultra Review
American Ultra Review
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