June 23, 2024

The movie “American Ultra” was released on Aug. 21, and stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.
Mike Howell (Eisenberg) is your average, small town bum.  He works in a store that’s always empty, gets high daily, draws cartoon characters in his spare time and lives with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart).  One night, after noticing two men wiring a bomb to his car, Mike discovers he is a deadly fighter. Turns out he was trained to be a killer for the CIA, and his brain has been “reactivated” to do so. The catch is, the CIA is trying to eliminate him. So Mike and Phoebe run off, trying to escape the CIA’s wild hunt.
One of the main highlights of “American Ultra” is its colorful characters. Mike is painfully and hilariously awkward, while Phoebe is his no nonsense partner in crime. Then there’s a band of ridiculous drug dealers; an insane, Joker-like character played by Walton Goggins and evil CIA agent Adrian Yates who’s more sarcastic than he is actually threatening, played by Topher Grace. Collectively, the characters are interesting and thoroughly entertaining. Eisenberg, Stewart and their fellow actors give stellar performances throughout the film.
Another aspect of the film worth noting is Mike and Phoebe’s relationship. It’s authentic and even admirable at times. Mike and Phoebe are simply happy together without much expectation between them. Although they bicker frequently and have major personality differences, they continue to support each other without exceptions.
When the previews for the movie were released, I was eagerly awaiting another chaotic stoner comedy. I was thinking it might be like a “Harold and Kumar” movie, but with a healthy dose of action and violence. However, the trailers were misleading. While “American Ultra” does have the characteristics of a stoner movie, most of the film focuses on action and drama; a majority of the jokes were in the trailer itself.

When I left the theater, I had a sense of deja vu. I was pretty sure I had seen something like “American Ultra” before. Then it hit me: say you took the plot line to the old NBC series “Chuck” (a story about your average Joe discovering someone has physically embedded knowledge into his brain that enables him to be a lethal spy) and the comic book character Scott Pilgrim (a quirky and awkward slacker who fights enemies in a video-game style). Stir those two stories together in a mixing bowl, bake at 350 degrees, and you have a freshly baked “American Ultra.”
Although it was not what I expected, I still enjoyed the movie. Even if it seems like “American Ultra” is recycled content, at least that content is entertaining. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 49 percent critic rating with a 55 percent viewer rating.  IMDb gave it a six and a half out of 10.  On my own scale, I’d give it a seven out of 10.

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