Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Running Time: 96 mins
American Ultra is an American film about a stoner, unaware of the fact that he is a secret government agent, who is targeted by the CIA and labelled for extermination, but when he is reactivated, he fights back with all of the power that the government gave him.
Unfortunately, American Ultra feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Despite a fun concept that should allow for big laughs and great action, the film winds round and round in a bit of a mess along the way, failing to really grab your attention or even cement a good comedic atmosphere, making the whole thing a little bit of a frustrating watch.
But not everything about American Ultra is a disappointment. For one, the two lead performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are excellent. Starring in what seems like their 1000th film together, the two have great chemistry throughout, and give a good dramatic spark to what is otherwise a fairly underwhelming central relationship.
And although he may not seem like the world’s most amazing action star, Jesse Eisenberg does actually do a decent job in a slightly grittier and more physical role than usual, albeit still not quite managing to save the film’s less-than-riveting dramatic story.
That’s sort of the general theme of the whole movie. There’s good talent and good ideas behind it all, but everything feels like it comes up short, getting totally confused in a particularly messy comedy-hard action atmosphere, and not doing its properly entertaining premise justice, despite a couple of very good twists and turns along the way.
Above all, it’s the fact that the film can’t really cement a good common ground between pure comedy and pure, die-hard action. The film is extremely violent throughout, and with some insane (and often excessive) shaky cam, it looks a whole lot like a properly gritty action movie, leading you into the state of mind that such a movie would warrant.
However, the film occasionally breaks off for random moments of comedy that, as well as not being all that well-written, stick out like a sore thumb. Rather than some films which use an abrupt switch to comedy as an effective relief, American Ultra feels like it’s trying to keep you interested in its less-than-thrilling action and drama, and given that the comedy used to that effect isn’t that funny, it really falls flat.
The film’s confused atmosphere also leads to its failure to capitalise on what at first seems like a really entertaining premise. Given its sheer ridiculousness, I really feel that the film should have taken the opportunity to be a little sillier and more fun-loving, something that would have really helped to make its premise both more enjoyable as well as convincing.
However, everything feels like it’s taken a little too seriously, nearing parody level but not quite enough to make you laugh, and as such, the whole film gets stuck in a frustrating middle-ground between genres, failing to prove either exciting or simply entertaining, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.9.