I knew almost nothing about this movie, except for a short trailer that played before a YouTube video I was watching this morning. I wanted to get out of the house and this seemed as good of a reason as any.
Adventureland stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart reunite in this comedy action suspense flick. We meet their two characters, Mike and Phoebe, as they lounge around their house smoking pot, which seems pretty standard. We soon discover that Mike is a former government soldier and experiment, though he doesn’t know it. We meet a woman named Victoria Lasseter (Friday Night Lights’ Connie Britton) who oversaw the project but helped put Mike in protection once the project fell apart. She gets an anonymous tip that Mike is danger and she discovers that her new boss (Topher Grace) seeks to erase the program from existence and sends a kill squad to take out Mike, who doesn’t remember any of his past life. When these soldiers show up to take him out, he starts to unconsciously call upon his training and proves that he won’t be taken down that easily. We’re also joined by John Leguizamo (Chef, Romeo + Juliet), Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development), and Bill Pullman (Independence Day).
Jesse Eisenberg has done some great work but he’s always been this kind of neurotic antisocial guy. Here, we get a bit of that, but once he starts kicking ass, he gets to show off a whole new side. And it’s believable here. He’s not doing incredible martial arts or anything, but he’s using his environment and doesn’t flinch to take a life. His first action scene involves him taking out two armed soldiers with only a cup of noodles and a spoon.
Kristen Stewart isn’t horrible here either. She gets a lot of flack for the Twilight films (and for being the worst part of Snow White and the Huntsman) but here, she’s energetic, kicks some ass when she needs to, and overall complements Eisenberg perfectly.
Stylistically, this film was really cool to watch. The director Nima Nourizadeh’s only other big credit so far is Project X, the all-night party movie. It feels like it borrows aspects from that, in that music is a very prominent piece of this movie, the editing is quick and flashy, and the colors are all very vibrant. This movie is almost like a music video that slows down at times for dialogue. The action scenes are especially cool, as you’re always looking for what Eisenberg’s Mike can use to take out his attackers. The final climax of the movie was really satisfying, though it can be a bit violent for those of you that are squeamish.
Topher Grace shows up as our villain and sometimes he really was a bit over the top. You hated him, which was perfect, but it wasn’t completely realistic. It was a nice turn for him but he did stand out a little.
By my lack of negatives, you can tell that I really liked this movie. It’s not great and it’s not going to win any awards, but if you’re looking for some fun escapism, look no further. American Ultra has some witty writing, great action scenes, and a surprisingly grounded romance. There isn’t a lot in the theaters right now, so put American Ultra at the top of your list when you head out.