Set in a seemingly lifeless town ‘American Ultra’ sees Jesse Eisenberg play Mike, a stoner who lives with his girlfriend Pheobe (played by Kristen Stewart), works a dead end job and smokes weed the rest of the time. Seemingly going nowhere…
Life takes a strange twist when he suddenly manages to quickly and efficiently kill two thugs sent by the CIA. Confused, he goes on the run with his girlfriend and discovers he has a past with the CIA and they want him disposed of.
The film kicks off with a bloodied and battered Jesse Eisenberg sitting in an interview room in jail, where a CIA employee shows him photos of various bloodied objects used as weapons and asks him where he’d like to begin. Cue a fast rewind of several shots of the film and the viewer is baited for 90 mins of action and laughter.
Except that isn’t what happens. What happens is a seemingly drawn out process of brief action pieces followed by longer scenes of nervousness and blandness as you wait for something to actually happen. Eisenberg and Stewart are relatively engaging and believable for the most part but the ham acting of main antagonist Topher Grace is pretty cringe-worthy and annoying at best. Jesse Eisenberg (ever the charmingly meek nice young chap) is usually a good watch in most of the films I’ve seen him in. I can’t say the same for Kristen Stewart as I only know of her from reputation as the pouting girl from the ‘Twilight’ film series.
However, they try earnestly to carry a film that is too low on laughs and too high (haha! See what I did there!?) on creating excitement without the depth of character needed. None of the government types seem believable, Eisenberg’s drug dealer friend is way over the top in the Hispanic ghetto minority role and despite the fact that lots of gun fights are happening and buildings are exploding, you only ever see two other “townsfolk” in the entire film.
While most films that aren’t hits are at least entertaining enough to occupy you for a few hours, ‘American Ultra’ just makes you keep looking at your watch. The end fight scene is a good highlight reel of what things you can find in a supermarket to kill people with and there’s the odd line that raises a smirk but apart from that it falls rather flat. On the drive home from the cinema it struck me that unlike the majority of comedy films whether they be average or some of the very best, ‘American Ultra’ doesn’t leave you with any memorable lines that would make you laugh. It’s a shame really as Eisenberg pulls off the “geeky-but-thoroughly-amusing” role very well in films such as ‘Zombieland’ (still one of my favourite films). But in ‘American Ultra’ he’s just an anxious, nervous character without a good script with which to entertain us with. Definitely a film to avoid.
Author – Steve, Bristol store