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.