Written by Ryan DeMarco
American Ultra is a film that can be best described as having some good solid moments throughout but ultimately falls flat when looked at as a whole.
I can compare this to going out to a world famous restaurant that has some of the best cooks in town and getting just an “okay” meal excluding a few standout factors. Going in the film had a lot of promise on paper. You have Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart as leads to an action comedy, along with Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, and Bill Pullman and Max Landis (Chronicle) who wrote the screenplay. Not bad right?
Eisenberg and Stewart re-team as a young couple who are your typical stoner boyfriend/girlfriend item who live out in the sticks of West Virginia, or so it appears. [Editor’s Note: They teamed together in 2009’s underrated comedy/drama Adventureland]. They lead a normal boring life, working two dead end jobs. They love each other, and Mike is about to propose to Phoebe (Stewart).
It isn’t until a couple of carjackers toy with Mike (Eisenberg) triggering his buried training, leading to him to go all Jason Bourne and killing them. But don’t worry they weren’t just innocent car jackers who had families and a dog named Fido. They were actually sent to kill him, I’m sorry neutralize him, from a shadow unit in the CIA led by Topher Grace.
Well because Max Landis wants to, that’s why.
It’s never really fleshed out fully, which to me comes off as lazy. Soon after, all hell breaks loose as the CIA sends masses and masses of killers to take out Eisenberg and Stewart leading us through a cluster of action scenes leaving behind bodies, destroyed buildings and deep dark secrets which includes Stewart in an interesting way.
The film overall left me a little disappointed because with the cast and crew working on this we should have gotten a better product. A good chunk of the jokes didn’t quite land, and some of the characters were just weak. In this day and age, you need strong characters that the audience can at least take away something from. I will go into this more later.
Topher Grace, who plays the main antagonist, is really more just a guy who wears suits and curses a bunch to try and make you laugh, but also hate him. I didn’t really feel any of that which also ties back into the plot. It makes me wonder why he was so determined to kill Mike and Phoebe, especially years after Mike was trained and then planted back into society. A society, where he wasn’t causing harm or threatening National Security in any way.
However, among all of my bashing there were bits that I liked. For one, Eisenberg and Stewart work very well each together. They clearly have chemistry that lets them be awkward together. It sounds weird, but they mesh well. I will say that Stewart really looked the most comfortable in her role, while there were times where Eisenberg looked a little unsure about how to act. Another factor that worked for me was the action scenes where Eisenberg was convincing in the ass kicking department. The finale, which took place in a Walmart style grocery store was nicely done where there were a some notible deaths and actually a tender moment between Eisenberg and a maniac named Laugher, played by Goggins.
American Ultra Rating: 6/10
Since this review came out later than usual, we can talk about Max Landis’ comments about how the movie fared in it’s opening weekend. In case you were unaware, it bombed. Barely making over 5 million dollars it’s opening weekend. I fear that those of you who read this won’t have a chance to see the movie because it’s probably out of the theater near you by now. Writer Max Landis took to twitter upon hearing this dreadful news and went about it in a weird if not unprofessional manner by somewhat slamming the film industry and the audience at the same time. His overall thought, “Are Original movies dead?”
I can honestly say, no, Mr. Landis, original movies are not dead.
His claims stem from the fact that American Ultra premiered dead last at the box office until countless reboots, remakes, and sequels that have been occupying the theaters.
Landis is puzzled why those movies out performed his since he believes his new film is “pretty good,” and if you haven’t read my review already you can already tell that I disagree with his claim. I wished it would have been pretty good, but the fact of the matter is the film had a somewhat interesting promise that didn’t attempt to go in uncharted terrority. I thought alot of the story and character motives were lazy, even for a comedy. Two actors were not enough to keep this afloat, let alone in “pretty good” territory.
Now I’m not saying that the other films are masterpieces by any means, I have yet to see any of the recent releases, but I can tell you they had better marketing and promotion that Ultra did.
I remember seeing a trailer for Hitman: Agent 47 before summer began. American Ultra didn’t premiere it’s trailer until late June. It had a very low public awareness which is detrimental to a film’s
success or failure.
Original movies are not dead. They are still greatly needed. In fact, there has been no other time in history where original movies are more needed. However, we live in a world where they are harder to come by. There are greater obstacles to get your picture made and even harder finding someone to take a risk and finance your idea.
The public has been exposed to the superhero and mega franchises for some time now that we are in a position to want to see a movie even before it is announced. I have no idea what the next Wolverine movie will be about, they could even cast Carrot Top as Wolverine and have Spike Lee direct and I will still want to see it, because of my undying love for the character. Ok, maybe not, but you get my point. At least, I hope.
The point of all this is, originals are not dead. There is still a huge demand for them. It’s just harder to get them made, and promoted these days. So don’t take this failure personally Max, your movie kind of blew and you’ll just need to work harder next time.