American Ultra

We got to check out the Ottawa screening of American Ultra last night.  I wasn’t excited to see it but hey, it’s a free movie!   Why wasn’t I excited?  Two reasons:

I haven’t cared for Jesse Eisenberg since Zombieland.  I have never been able to get over his one whiny character he always plays (at least I hope it’s a character).   And now he’s going to undoubtedly be whiny Lex Luthor in Batman vs. Superman which worries me a lot.  Even worse, I’m not sure I’ve ever liked a movie starring Kristen Stewart, because she seems to be exclusively in bad tween movies and also she never smiles or changes expressions as far as I can tell.

So those were two big strikes against American Ultra.  And I have to say, my worries in that regard were largely unwarranted.  Which is not to say either of these actors surprised me with their performances.  They were really the same as they ever are.  It just worked in this movie for some reason, maybe because Topher Grace was more annoying than the two of them put together, so I had to cheer for the good guys as the lesser of two evils.

It also helped that American Ultra was surprisingly decent as a popcorn movie.  Looking back, there are some parallels between this and Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Kingsman is hands-down better, don’t get me wrong, but American Ultra has the same kind of feel and, like Kingsman did with Colin Firth, American Ultra made me believe that Jesse Eisenberg could take down a whole army of government-sponsored assassins (or “assets” because apparently the government owns them).  Which was essential when the plot of American Ultra consists of Jesse Eisenberg killing lots and lots of people with whatever items are close at hand.

The difference between this and Kingsman is the subtext (or lack thereof).  Kingsman knows exactly what it wants to be and the message it wants to convey.  American Ultra, not so much.  If there is a message here, I totally didn’t get it, as the message I thought was being delivered for most of the movie disappeared and then was completely contradicted by the ending as American Ultra tried to wrap itself up.   And without a message, this movie is just violence.  Well-done, over-the-top, spectacular violence, but still just violence.  And that means American Ultra will be quickly forgotten by me and probably everyone else who sees it.  It is a time waster, a missed opportunity, and nothing more.

Apollo Ape and Chip the Brick, on the other hand?  Now there’s a team!  I would much rather have seen that movie.

 

American Ultra gets a rating of five gruesome Kwik-E-Mart kills out of ten.

 

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20 thoughts on “American Ultra

  1. Birgit

    I think I may pass on this film because it stars 2 of the most annoying people I find in films (note I say in film not on earth-that goes to the Kardashiasses, Trump, any housewife with botox,…you get my idea:)). I would be hoping someone shoots both of them or their heads explode like what happens to many in The Kingsmen

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  2. Jay

    Yeah, I really can’t handle these two. But I did like John Leguizamo. And Connie Britton kicked butt. And Buster!
    But these two? I think he sold the tepid, squeamish side better than the killing machine. He just moves too awkwardly.
    In some ways, this felt more like a music video than a movie. Not that there was great music, but just because it was a sequence of visuals, lots of them very interesting, but not a lot of story line.
    I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. And maybe I didn’t hate it at all. Did it creep towards like? I’m not sure. It’s funny in spots, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of actually parodying all these other spy movies, and isn’t that the point lately?

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    1. Sean Post author

      You’re right to mention the supporting cast. There were lots of recognizable faces and those three were standouts.

      It totally was a music video, definitely, though without much noticeable music. Visually it was very well done but you are totally right that the problem was it didn’t feel like a parody at all and that’s really what made Kingsman so much better: it was purposefully over-the-top to lampoon the straight-faced yet ludicrous spy movies we see so often.

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  3. J.

    I’ve seen the posters when I’ve been out and about, but I haven’t been all that intrigued by it. Didn’t even know what it was about until reading this! I don’t mind the Jesse guy, but that’s probably caise i’ve enjoyed the movies he’s been in that I’ve seen. Dare say I’ll give it a miss, though … maybe catch it when it appears on Netflix or suchlike.

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  4. eddiehamel

    The concept is so great though. I’m sad to hear that it, like so many of it’s recent cousins, isn’t living up to it’s potential.
    Eisenberg and Stewart are honestly the last people I’d like to see together as leads in any film but somehow they’ve managed to find parts that require them to basically be themselves.
    The only way I’ll watch this in theaters is if group mentality takes over and nothing better is playing.
    Thanks for the review.

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  5. ruth

    Not a fan of Eisenberg and just starting to warm up to Stewart. But all the buzz surrounding this got me intrigued so I might give it a rent. Boy I’d never picture Eisenberg in a role like this!

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    1. Sean Post author

      I totally forgot about the Social Network! He was well cast as whiny-nerd-made-good Mark Zuckerberg. I’m not sure whether that is a compliment.

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  6. Khalid

    I’ve always liked Topher Grace since his That 70’s Show days and personally think he’s a very underrated actor. But tbh this whole movie doesn’t sound all that interesting to begin with

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  7. Paul S

    To be fair, Kristen Stewart’s acting style is like a Woody Allen joke; it’s better to be underplayed — just to get things done. What Kristen does on screen is very subtle, and I almost always relate to her characters, just not in this case.

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    1. Sean Post author

      I’ll give you the subtlety. She’s very controlled and I sold her short for humour’s sake, she did smile at one point in this movie at Topher Grace, and it was a nice little moment because you knew she was going to kick his ass.

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  8. Brittani

    Nice write up! I’ll probably pass on this. This film felt like it came out of nowhere. I had no idea it was even being made, then I randomly started seeing trailers for it everywhere.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Thanks, and I had the same experience with this coming out of nowhere. I think we saw one trailer for it a month ago and looked at each other like, is that a real thing?

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  9. inspiredbythedivine1

    Love the review. Must say, I agree with your assessments on both of these actors. I’m very concerned that Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor might just fuckin’ ruin Batman V Superman, but, I’m hopeful I’m wrong. I’ll check out this flick to see if I agree with your review. $Amen$

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  10. reocochran

    You talked me out of this one! I was a little interested but the lack of meaning or clarity would get on my nerves. I appreciate this fair review and still wish to go sometime this weekend to see “Rick and the Flash.” Just because. . .:)
    Have a happy weekend!

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  11. Ally B. Jones

    Cool….i might check this one out. Even though Kristen Stewart is in it. I heard that she’s been doing better than her plastic days.

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