American Ultra Review

Chariot progressive. Mandelbrot set in motion — Now that I have your attention, I’d like to tease you with a potentially awesome movie review. I’ve come up with a bunch of great ideas but I just didn’t take the little extra time needed to plan out a cohesive written piece. I’ve devised some uniquely interesting thoughts but my execution will be clunky and I’ll beat you over the head with obvious metaphors. This paragraph has been a metaphor for American Ultra.

American Ultra tells the story of Mike Howell, a drug smoking, cartoon ape drawing, noodle eating, Twilight loving, long-haired slacker working at a rural West Virginia Cash-N-Carry who also has severe anxiety. So obviously Jesse Eisenberg plays Mike. After an arbitrary device moves the plot forward, Mike is revealed to be a CIA sleeper agent and is activated. Violence occurs, a love story wiggles in and then the movie ends.

This is not what I would call a ‘thinking’ movie. The script by Max Landis is fine. There are some good moments and you’re served a decent helping of comedy but it’s a pretty straightforward, connect the dots affair. The script could have gone through one last revision to even out some of the scenes and to differentiate the characters voices. Knowing how Max Landis speaks, every character had Max Landis’s voice.

That’s not to say all of the characters aren’t enjoyable. Most of my enjoyment came Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mike and his dealings with his girlfriend Phoebe (played by the surprisingly awesome Kristen Stewart) and the criminally underutilized, criminal Rose (played by John Leguizamo).

Why are we yelling?
Why are we yelling?

The rest of the cast however… well they run the spectrum from whatever to yeeeeesh. I’m looking at you Topher Grace. Topher plays Yates, the main antagonist. Bless his soul, he certainly tries but he was setup to fail from the start. The character is poorly written and completely devoid of anything redeemable. Why is he doing anything that he is doing? I don’t know.  Does he know? Do the other characters know? Does the director know? Yates certainly moves the plot forward so at least he does something right.

But you’re not watching American Ultra for the strong character arcs or the social commentary or the sharp, dramatic dialogue. You’re watching it because it’s funny, it’s full of quality fight sequences and it’s ultra violent. Jesse Eisenberg surprised me with how well he (and his stunt double) pulls off all the fight choreography. His movement is crisp and fluid. Combine his physical presence with his character traits you have the perfect recipe for calming some of my fears of Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman v Superman. So there you have it. My absolute favorite part of American Ultra is that it got me more excited for a different movie.

American Ultra is definitely unique and adequately enjoyable. It had many entertaining moments but it also had too many meh moments. Somewhere in the bones of this film is an even better film.

American Ultra John Leguizamo