American Ultra

Posted August 24, 2015 by in


Total Score

5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: Action, horror, romantic-comedy
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: 8-21-2015
Studio: PalmStar Media, The Bridge Finance Company, The Circle of Confusion, et al.
What We Thought

American Ultra has an unforgettable-ness that will make it a classic, an era-defining movie. It’s the next True Romance.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
American Ultra stands on a lin03e where the action movie meets the horror genre.  There’s shootouts and fight scenes, the standard elements of an actioner, but it’s done in way that is so brutal, bloody and gory that the film resembles both The Bourne Identity and a Saw film at the same time.  Also, it is a romantic comedy.
     Jessie Eisenberg portrays Mike Howell, a slacker who lives with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) in a small town.  They spend their days together getting high and adoring one another.  Mike, a self-described “fuck-up,”  wants to propose to her, and is waiting for the right moment.
     He might not get his chance. One night, Jessie catches two men tampering with his car.  They attack him, but he disarms one of the pair and shoots him with his own gun, then kills the other using only a spoon.
     He did not know he could do that, and is pretty freaked-out about it.  Think of Mike as a stoner-Jason Bourne, possessing dormant combat abilities and espionage skills that he remembers as needed per the occasion.
     Mike has been targeted for termination by the C.I.A., for reasons that don’t particularly make sense or matter.  In charge of the operation is Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), who sends in assets who we learn are former mental patients who were subjected to human experimentation.
     Uh-huh.  I can buy human experimentation, but there is no way the C.I.A. would invest millions into a program that would turn crazy people into super-spies and expect it to work.  Uh-hunh, no way.
     Obviously, American Ultra requires suspension of disbelief, but it deserves it.  The pot-head dialog gets laughs, and as an action movie, it’s one of the year’s best.  The violence is captured with disturbing clarity; no shaky-cam, no quick-cuts.  The fights seem very real, and Jessie Eisenberg looks like he’s doing a good deal of his own stunt work.  Props to you, Mr. Eisenberg.
     This film is not just the year’s most violent, but one of the most violent movies ever.  We’re talking Kill Bill or The Raid 2 level of violent here.  It’s a difficult film to sit through, for sure, but I’m glad I did.  It has an unforgettable-ness that will make it a classic, an era-defining movie.  It’s the next True Romance.
     Is it a perfect movie?  No.  The climax brought me to joyous tears, but then the movie  went on ten minutes too long.  Spoilers from here on.
     Mike and Phoebe are a modern-day stoner Romeo and Juliet.  They are rebels, who love each other in a world that is bent on coming between them.  And we all know what happened to R & J.
     Really, many of cinema’s best films are tragedies.  But instead of the sad ending it deserves, the movie opts for sequel-baiting.  Mike and Phoebe do not need a sequel.  What they need is a proper Bonnie and Clyde ending, as violent and bloody as everything that lead up to it.
     However, that kind of ending—the real ending—is unlikely, if not imposAmerican Ultrasible, in the current climate of Hollywood.  These days, everything has to be a franchise or a cinematic universe.  I can’t emphasize how indifferent I am to the further adventures of Mike and Phoebe.  However, the box office suggests that audiences aren’t getting tired of 2’s and 3’s and 7’s, and Part II’s of sequel #5.  And so an American Ultra 2:  Too Ultra seems likely.
     Nevertheless, the ending is part of a whole, a flawed part of a great movie.  American Ultra is a passionate love story, and the violence is essential to that.  It is the tale of a boy who will do absolutely anything to get his girl back, let no man stand between himself and her.  What could be more romantic than that?
     The story is inspired by The Bourne Identity, but it is just that, inspired, and the screenplay once again proves that Max Landis, who also penned Chronicle, is one of Hollywood’s best assets, pun intended.  Kristen Stewart is as natural as she is likable opposite Eisenberg, who slides into his role like a glove.  The film is one of the year’s best and biggest surprises.  Five stars.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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