American Ultra had one factor going for it that made me really excited about this film. That factor was Max Landis. Landis, a relatively new screenwriter, wrote the 2012 film Chronicle, a movie I really liked, and made one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time entitled Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling. Landis seems to be very creative and does well with material that is unorthodox or unique. That’s why I had a pretty good bit of anticipation for this movie.
The movie is about a stoner named Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg). He sees himself as a total failure and worries that he is holding back his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). By the looks of things, it is hard to argue with Mike’s concerns and critical opinions of himself. Then one night he encounters a couple of guys doing something to his car, and all that is changed.
Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic in this movie. This was a great role for him and he fit into it very well. It was a challenging role because he had to sell a lot of reactions to crazy things that are happening to him. His reactions is what really makes the film work as well as it does. He makes it possible to buy the absurdity of the situations he finds himself in. My biggest concern going into this film was Kristen Stewart. This seemed like quite an odd role for her. She plays a very likeable and sympathetic character here, which is something I have never seen her pull off before in her career. After seeing the movie, I have to give her a lot of credit. She did a very good job in a role that was as challenging, if not more so, than the lead. Topher Grace is very good in a supporting role. He is over the top, but the film calls for that in my opinion. There are also some very good supporting performances by Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, and Walton Goggins. The acting is a high point for this film.
The film establishes itself early as being totally absurd and audacious, almost to the point of films like Kick Ass or Kill Bill. A lot of what happens in the movie is clearly impossible and ridiculous, but it kind of works because of how the movie is presented. This is more of a fun action/comedy than a nail biting thriller. I actually really enjoyed the tone of this film.
The biggest problem I had with the movie was that there is too much government drama, especially early in the film. I actually think they revealed too much too quickly. We didn’t need all the government stuff in the first act of the film, and I got a little bogged down in it.
I wasn’t too impressed with director Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) here. Most of the film is directed adequately enough, but the action sequences are horrible. The movie moves pretty fast in general, which is fine, but when the action sequences are cut and edited in this type of choppy fashion in which you can’t tell what is going on, that is a problem.
For the most part, I really liked the climax of this movie. Without giving anything away, it reminded me a lot of the climax of the movie The Equalizer, except it actually worked in this film. I think they missed just a little bit on the way the scene played out but overall it was a very fitting climax.
I had a lot of fun with American Ultra. It is an absurd film in the very best ways. I loved the way the movie ended and this is one film that I really want to see a sequel to because of the way everything played out. I think that could really work. American Ultra is one of the most purely fun films I have seen this year. The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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