American Ultra is a Great Concept with Sloppy Direction
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh
Written by: Max Landis
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale
Running time: 96 minutes
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content
American Ultra is a very interesting film that suffers from a short attention span. The inexperienced direction of Nima Nourizadeh left the film with momentum and pacing problems, and inconsistent tone. While the film was ultimately entertaining it left me feeling as though Nourizadeh did not fully understand what to do with the script from Max Landis, he was too focused on individual sequences to construct as consistent narrative. The film jumped from parody to dynamic action to stoner comedy without blending the seams, we have a film with sequences that do not really fit together. I found this exceptionally disappointing, as I genuinely liked the story, and Jesse Eisenberg, this should have been a great movie, instead it is just a mediocre film that is likely to find a cult following. If I could judge a film on what it could have been, on its potential, this would be a glowing review, as would my reviews of other recent films.
Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is an absent minded burnout stoner, working as a convenience store clerk, who spends his spare time drawing comics about a superhero ape, and being completely in love with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). Mike has decided it is time to propose to Phoebe, but it has to be the right moment, and the right place, so he booked a trip for two to Hawaii, but his phobia of leaving town kicked in and kept him off the plane. However, that was enough for the CIA, agent Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) issued orders to have Mike killed. It turns out Mike is the product of a secret CIA run by Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) to train sleeper agents using experimental techniques which include memory modification. When Victoria discovers Adrian’s plan she activates Mike, triggering his latent subconscious skills, to save his and Phoebe’s life.
Yes, that plot is convoluted, and at times, it does not make very much sense, but that is only because there is a great deal of plot holes for the audience to get lost inside. Once inside one of these plot-holes you may never come out, which is unfortunate because you would miss some terrific comedy. It is also unfortunate that an inexperienced director fumbled so many comedic moments because Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, and Connie Britton were actually quite funny. My personal favorite in this film was the small bit role by John Leguizamo, whom I have always enjoyed. As I said before, this film will likely find a cult following, and will be popular among a much younger crowd, while I cannot see past its unfulfilled potential.