“I think I'm that tree. And I think you're the car and I think I'm stopping you.”
American Ultra is what you get when you combine any classic stoner comedy with The Bourne Identity. It is a hybrid of both genres which results in a fast paced action comedy. It is almost cartoonish at times despite trying to remain serious. There are scenes in this movie that reminded me of Pineapple Express because the action scenes are extremely violent at times, although the comedy is much more toned down here. The film never ceased to entertain me throughout its entire runtime, but at the same time I felt like the characters lacked a bit of personality and the story didn’t offer much. The cast is extremely talented, but the fast paced action scenes don’t give us time to center on the characters. I wouldn’t rewatch this film, but I still enjoyed it. American Ultra is Nima Nourizadeh’s follow up to his directorial debut, Project X. The main reason I wanted to catch up with this film however, was because it was reuniting Kristen Stewart with Jesse Eisenberg after their wonderful collaboration together in Adventureland. I loved the two together and I was looking forward to seeing them play love interests once again. Perhaps I ended up enjoying this movie more than others because I like the two leads, but I wasn’t even close to hating this. It does have several flaws, especially the decision to cast Topher Grace as the main villain because he is completely one dimensional. This isn’t a film for everyone, especially if you’re expecting a full blown out comedy because it is more of an action film that feels like a graphic novel adaptation at times.
The plot revolves around a stoner, Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg), who doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in life. He is waiting for the perfect moment to propose to his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) who is the only person he cares for in the world. Mike isn’t the brightest kid, but he has a good heart. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that Mike has a special ability that he doesn’t even know about. He has been part of a CIA experiment that has trained him to become an assassin. Now the people that made him want him dead. Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) orders his agents to terminate Mike after their experimentation with the Ultra program has been abandoned. His former trainee, Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton), decides to activate Mike so he can defend himself against the onslaught of agents that are coming after him. Now Mike inadvertently discovers his new set of found skills and uses them to protect himself and Phoebe from the people that want him gone. Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, and Tony Hale have small roles in this film, but are always a delight to see. Neither of them stand out, but they each deliver in the few scenes they are given.
Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg both play characters we’ve seen in the past and that we know they can play in their sleep so there isn’t really anything new they bring to this film. If you’re not a fan of these actors then skip this film, but if like me you enjoy them, then you won’t be disappointed despite them not doing anything unique. Eisenberg has proved in the past that he can deliver stronger material (The Social Network) as well as Stewart (Clouds of Sil Maria), but here they seem to be in more comfortable territory and therefor don’t bring anything unique. American Ultra benefits from an interesting story even though it doesn’t live up to the initial setup. It starts off pretty strong, but ends up lacking a stronger finale.