‘American Ultra’ Review: An Abundance of Fun with Hit and Miss Comedy

American Sniper….no wait, that isn’t right. American Hustle? No, American PieAmerican Psycho? American Beauty?  American History X? WHY ARE SO MANY MOVIES AMERICAN? Anyway, the latest American movie American Ultra is directed by Project X‘s Nima Nourizadeh and is written by Max Landis (Chronicle). Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, American Ultra follows Mike (Eisenberg) who is a stoner that is, unbeknownst to him, a government trained killer. When the government targets him to be eliminated, Mike and his girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart) try to survive while they discover what Mike really is.

I really enjoyed Chronicle and I think that Max Landis is a very talented writer and that does show in this movie in some parts more than others.This movie starts off with the annoying technique of showing the end of the movie first and then saying “Let’s see how we got here”. I find it incredibly lazy and unoriginal and I could have lived without it. However, the original concept of the movie is what really gripped me to it and I had a really fun time watching it. The script was very shaky in many moments, especially with Topher Grace’s character, but it really shined with Eisenberg and Stewart. Eisenberg’s comedic timing is actually quite brilliant and Stewart did a great job as well. The directing was cool but didn’t explore the stoner feel like Inherent Vice did last year. Being a stoner is one of the most interesting parts of Eisenberg’s character but I don’t think they played it up enough.

For an action comedy, I don’t feel like this movie was that funny. Eisenberg and Stewart produced a bunch of laughs but a lot of the jokes were misfires. I don’t think he is particularly to blame, but Topher Grace’s jokes and lines were awful and dragged down the movie a bit. Topher definitely did the best he could with what he had but what he had wasn’t good at all. The comedy worked at John Leguizamo’s character’s house and produced a good amount of laughs. However, this movie should have been off the wall hysterical but it fell way short of that mark.

The action, however, was done fantastically. Jesse Eisenberg is not an action star at all but you could have fooled me after seeing this. There is one scene in particular, that is inside a supermarket and it is a one-shot of Eisenberg going all over the place killing a bunch of thugs. The choreography and cinematography were incredible in that scene and it was something I never would have expected from this movie. Also, I was very happy to see the use of blood squibs instead of CGI. It looked so much better and fit well with the over the top violent tone.

Jesse Eisenberg is so good in this movie because you would never expect him to be a government assassin which is the whole point of the character. He was perfectly cast and everything about his character worked for me. Kristen Stewart was also very good but my only problem is that you could see her character arc a mile away. It was painfully obvious to me, but she was still pleasant to see on screen. Connie Britton plays a pivotal role in the movie and while she isn’t as funny, her character sets the plot of the movie in motion and really keeps it rolling. Topher Grace is so awful in this movie but I blame most of that on the terrible lines he was fed. I was delighted to see Tony Hale in this movie, who I didn’t know was in it. His role is important but I wish he was funnier because I find him hysterical in other things. This movie also has a BIG cameo that I wasn’t expecting at all. It is an actor I haven’t seen act since the 90’s and it was an awesome surprise to see him pop up in a cool role.

Overall, I think people should see this movie because I fully support the original concept that they conceived and it is such a fun movie. Thematically, it has a few problems but that’s not why you go to see this movie. It is a smart action movie that is carried by Jesse Eisneberg’s great performance. I do think it could have been handled better in some scene but I think American Ultra is a fully entertaining movie that is original and sharp.

3.5/5 Stars

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