American Ultra – Movie Review
American Ultra – R
Release Date: Fri 21 Aug 2015
American Ultra is an action comedy directed by Nima Nourizadeh and written by Max Landis. A stoner named Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is unaware that he is a programmed government agent until the government decides he’s a liability and try to kill him. He and his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) fight to survive and figure out why Mike is suddenly a self-defense expert.
The most interesting aspect of American Ultra is it’s tone. The comedy doesn’t hold your hand, it requires some close attention. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but for people that enjoy their action with something of a running commentary on itself this is a real treat. Case in point, Phoebe is having a tearful conversation with Mike as they hide out in a car where she is simultaneously scared and trying to quietly reprimand him for doing some stupid things. It’s the kind of stuff you’d yell at the screen yourself in a cheesy, straight action movie. But the tone also never goes broad. It would be easy for this scene to have been a shouting match to accentuate that what Phoebe is saying is funny, but she says it in the same tone of voice as she says necessary dialogue – “what are we going to do?”
Eisenberg and Stewart are great in their central roles. They have a believable relationship as a stoner couple that really care for each other. But the film has another trick up its sleeve with a supporting cast of top notch talent. Many of these are television character actors, but they are always fun to see show up and seem to be having a blast playing everything from assassins to CIA bureaucrats. Topher Grace is the de facto villain of the movie and he is hilarious here. The other supporting cast weren’t spoiled in the trailers so I’m not going to spoil them here.
The violence can get pretty graphic, but for the most part the humor keeps it from being brutal to watch. If the movie’s sense of humor doesn’t work for you, there isn’t going to be enough of a hook to keep you that interested. But for everyone else this is something special. It’s a movie I recommend seeing in theaters if only to reinforce our desire as an audience for more fun and unique films as American Ultra.
Matthew, Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: