Written by Max Landis / Directed by Nima Nourizadeh / Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Connie Britton
AMERICAN ULTRA is inherently intriguing as it stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, two actors at the top of their games, and casts them as two moronic pot heads. Considering Stewart recently won a Cesar award for her supporting turn in CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA and Eisenberg just wrapped a Superman film where he will play Lex Luthor, these two seem like they should be above this kind of movie. In fact, AMERICAN ULTRA seems more like the kind of film the two would have starred in years ago, around the time they appeared together in ADVENTURELAND. Perhaps they should have left the past alone though.
Eisenberg and Stewart play Mike and Phoebe, a stoner couple with non-existent aspirations. Mike spends his days writing his unpublished comic series and his nights working the cash register at a convenience store. One evening a woman (Connie Britton) walks into the store and mumbles some weird phrases at a puzzled Mike. Moments later, two men come to kill Mike and he fights back in ways he never knew he was capable of executing. For reasons beyond his understanding, Mike has become the target of an army of CIA operatives and with Phoebe’s help, he must figure out what is going on while trying to survive.
Unfortunately, AMERICAN ULTRA is largely an unremarkable film. Eisenberg and Stewart are quite charismatic as the leads, but the plot itself is nothing spectacular. The film will get most of its grins from great supporting roles for actors like Tony Hale, Bill Pullman, and John Leguizamo as drug dealer Rose. That being said, while it may not be remembered for its plot, some of the directorial choices are at least exciting. Director Nima Nourizadeh directs some awesome action sequences, made even better by flashes of great set design. One particular fight scene takes place in Rose’s neon-florescent home gym, and it looks incredible. The disappointment comes from Max Landis’ screenplay. Landis previously wrote the surprisingly impressive CHRONICLE, so I was really hoping for something innovative here.
Ultimately, AMERICAN ULTRA will satisfy some with its half decent action film and its few laughs. Eisenberg and Stewart would do better by themselves and their fans though if they continued along their current paths of success without making time for mediocrity like this to fill the gaps.