Review: American Ultra

A story of a boy and a girl in love, living happily in a small town with their boring jobs, until one night Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is attacked by two strangers messing with his car and miraculously manages to survive armed with only instant noodles and a spoon to defend himself (as it turns out he’s a sleeper agent for the C.I.A, who knew? Certainly not him). The story gets pretty wild quickly from there and Mike just wants to stay alive long enough to propose to his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). The combination of Eisenberg and Stewart is a reunion of sorts after their little seen but great film Adventureland in 2009, a charming indie romance that if you like American Ultra, check it out.

This is an unsual combination of genres, it’s a stoner comedy but it’s also a spy film with elements of an action film, really it’s a little bit of everything, which to some people is confusing but I think it’s fantastic. No film should have to define or restrict itself to one genre, how else would we have ended up with the (also Eisenberg starrer) amazing film that is Zombieland, part survivor flick and part hilarious comedy. The last attempt at making a film of a similar tone would probably be the less than sparkling 30 Minutes or Less, trying to combine the love-able stoner with fast paced guns blazing action which just didn’t work for them but it does work for American Ultra. Immediately you’re drawn in to Mike and Phoebe’s relationship and for a moment this could be a sweet little romance film, but thankfully it’s not, it’s much, much more. It doesn’t take long for things to go from safe and slow to things blowing up and people with guns coming from every angle. The fight scenes are fantastically choreographed to move so fast but smooth, it will keep your eyes glued to the screen so you don’t miss a thing. The action is more well dispersed throughout the film than the comedy, the jokes are occasionally more background filler than they are foreground killer but there’s still enough to keep the film funny.

Both Eisenberg and Stewart have had what you could call not exactly soaring trajectories with their careers, and yet both seem to be hitting a hot streak at the moment. Eisenberg as everyone must know by now is the next Lex Luthor that will grace the big screen in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and has had recent success with The Double, Now You See Me, Night Moves, The End of The Tour and Louder Than Bombs. Stewart may get a bad rap due to her part in the Twilight franchise, but can we bear in mind how much money it made, how many fans it has, that she did not in fact create the annoying character that is Bella Swan and that she was around 17 when she agreed to take on the role. So now with no bias consider her recent films: Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Maria and Camp X-Ray, this is an impressive list by most accounts. I have to admit personally I’ve always been a fan of Stewart ever since I saw Adventureland for this first time so maybe I’m the one who’s biased, but I still believe she’s got a future ahead of her that will show what she’s capable of, considering the fact she has already been acting for 16 years at the age of 25.

Supporting players here are Topher Grace and Connie Britton who serve their purpose but could easily be replaced by anyone else and it would make little difference, despite that Grace is skilled in playing men who are really just grown up spoilt brats. The same goes for John Leguizamo as their local drug dealer, nothing special there. The exceptions are Tony Hale and Walton Goggins who do great jobs with the relatively small/medium parts that they’re given.

It’s a difficult film to describe but it’s new, it’s a little different, and it’s a hugely welcome change that will capture your attention and not let go for 96 minutes. This isn’t for everyone, but for me it was fantastic and I will be certainly grabbing up the DVD when the time comes, and it is absolutely screaming out for a sequel, so fingers crossed. See it before it’s gone.

Verdict: 8/10

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