Although it is a compilation of well-worn concepts, AMERICAN ULTRA, written by Max Landis, makes for an entertaining, and at times, charming film, especially thanks to its fantastic cast. Think of it as an R-rated version of CHUCK mixed with aspects of ORPHAN BLACK and THE BOURNE IDENTITY. And don’t think I didn’t notice the ode to ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND with Kristen Stewart’s Clementine-looking hair. Is it as good as any of the aforementioned movies? Absolutely not, but it makes for a fun time at the movies and adds another check to my “Can we all stop hating on Kristen Stewart now?” list.
You can tell Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is a guy with a lot of potential hidden under his long hair, floral shirts, and marijuana smoke. He’s smart, funny, and has an equally-matched girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). But a crippling anxiety problem ensures he is never able to leave his small town. So, Mike is stuck working a dead-end job at a customer-less convenient store. That is, until one day a woman (Connie Britton) walks in and changes his life forever. Uttering a nonsensical phrase, Agent Lassetter activates her asset, turning Mike’s brain back onto the fact that he is actually a super CIA agent. With just a flash of his mind, Mike has the knowledge and skills to neutralize most any enemy. These skills will come in handy to save his and Phoebe’s lives now that CIA Agent Yates (Topher Grace) and his team of super warriors have decided to take Mike outl. But, of course, eliminating Mike will not be as easy as it looks.
Much like such films as TRUE ROMANCE and NATURAL BORN KILLERS, at its heart, AMERICAN ULTRA is a love story… a violent love story, but a love story nonetheless. And the fantastic performances from Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg, whose chemistry picks up right where it left off in ADVENTURELAND, anchor the film. Because the plot isn’t that original, it was the strong performances from the leading couple that really elevated the film from an “I’ve seen this before”, to an all-around enjoyable film.
Major props also for finally giving Connie Britton a character with teeth! Instead of casting her in a role with only one line or two as she stands in a doorway and then walks away, she actually had an interesting character arc in this film. Not to mention, I applaud any director who is willing to showcase her beautiful hair, which I consider the 8th Wonder of the World. It was hilarious that at first, her hair was in a bun, but by the end of the movie, director Nima Nourizadeh realized he couldn’t contain its majesty any longer and the hair flew free.
August is usually a calm movie month before the Oscar storm, so if you are looking for a escapist movie to beat the last of the summer heat, check out AMERICAN ULTRA. The cast is great, and the hat tips to other famous films/TV shows are fun to look out for.
My Review: B-