AMERICAN ULTRA – review

 

American Ultra:

This is the tale of stoner Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart), and one action filled night the two had because Mike is a sleeper agent.

The movie starts us off with developing both Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart’s characters. Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is a stoner, who has panic attacks when he tries to leave town and is considered mentally slow, and has a problem of constantly getting arrested. Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) is a stoner, who enjoys Mike’s personality and his ideas for a comic. The movie establishes early on that the two share an intimate relationship and are willing to look past each others faults to stay together as Mike had planned to take Phoebe to Hawaii to propose. This fails as his panic attacks prevent him from getting on the plane in time.au5

After this is resolved with Mike making an analogy that he is like a tree to the car that is Phoebe it transfers to the half of the movie, the CIA. At her desk  Agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton), gets a call letting her know that the project she worked, Project Wiseman, was about to be terminated. In a fret she decides to go and try and stop this from happening. She first approaches the only person who would be in charge of this kind of operation, Agent Adrian Yates (Topher Grace). When this fails she decides to take drastic measures by activating the agent, who so happens to be the main protagonist in the film, Mike Howell. She says the code that would activate him, but she thinks it fails as he remains the same. This is true until two goons of Agent Yates appear and try to kill him. This is where he goes into what the movie wants you to believes to be is a badass mode type deal. He is able to quickly deal with the guys and the rest of the movie is of the similar tone. Jesse and Kristen are running from the agents of Yates called the tough guys, with a few twist and turns added for suspense.

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I think the movie falls short in two main areas, but also excels in three other areas. Might as well get through the bad first: the fight scenes and the comedy. Some of the fight scenes, particularly the final showdown, attempt to look badass as Mike Howell uses every day equipment, and on occasion guns, to dispense of the guys, but it all comes off as very cartoony. In the final showdown some of the moves look cool but have cartoonish sound effects to take away from the awesomeness that is Jesse Eisenberg getting his Denzel Washington from Equalizer on. In the Equalizer, it was almost the same, but where American Ultra uses cartoon sound effects and rapid movement of combat to make it look cartoonish; Equalizer let audience know that Denzel Washington was a badass through his actions and the camera work. This is suppose to be a comedy movie and in some scenes it showed that is what they were going for in the action, but in others it was cartoony, but not enough to be funny.au2

The second problem with the film was the comedy. This is suppose to be an action comedy, but in many points the comedy fell short. The jokes in the theater fell short and did not reach the audience. That is not to say that the entire move was without a joke that made us laugh, but many of the films jokes were either lost, or were just not there. It is hard to comment on comedy as for some, these jokes may be funny. I think that the jokes are there for those who check their brain at the door, but for me, and many others at theater, it was not funny.

Now on to the Good things about the movie: Laugher and Agent Yates, Jesse Eisenberg, and the connection that the two protagonist have with each other. Laugher is played by Walter Goggins and is the main tough guy of the film. Along with Agent Yates (Topher Grace) he is the main antagonist in the film. Laugher is a riot in this film, his over the top acting is hilarious and comical. Many of the laughs in the film are because of Laugher and his quirky and comical nature. It looked like Walter Goggins was just having a blast with this film no matter how silly his character. This is the same for Topher Grace, they both looked like they were just having a joy of a time whenever they were on screen.au4

One of the main worries I had going into this film was whether we would see the normal Jesse Eisenberg, or a different one. Jesse had a streak of playing two characters in reality, the Jesse from Zombieland or the Jesse from Now You See Me. Both are great characters, but because they are great characters he was constantly put in films that had him play that character just with a new paint job. Mike Howell was more of a hybrid of the two and was a new character all together. It took the natural fear that was required for the proper scenes, similar to how he was in Zombieland, but when the movie required Jesse was able to flip the switch and become a stoned cold killer. It was a pleasure to see progression in his acting and see that he could do something other than those two characters.

The final thing that impressed me in the film was its attention to the bond that Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart had in the film. The film didn’t over romanticize it by making Kristen go full twilight mode, but instead showed a more complex relationship. Kristen’s character, Phoebe, was understanding of the quirks that Mike Howell had in his life, but at the same time was still upset. As the action started to ramp up the movie threw a wrench in their relationship and it is interesting to see that Mike is not immediately willing to forgive Phoebe, like a normal person.

The faults listed above are large and outway many of the nice bits of the film. Do I think this is a movie you should avoid, no. If you are looking for a mindless action comedy then I would give this film a thought. That being said I give this movie a C-. It’s not terrible, but it is pretty bad in some areas. The one thing I can say about the film is  that I got what I expected out of the film.

ALEX HUMMEL

 

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