From its promotion American Ultra appeared to be an unassuming stoner comedy with a healthy dose of action thrown in. While the leads are certainly stoners, there is little of that genre as the film tries hard to be a quirky and comedic action flick. American Ultra has some brilliant ideas but all you ever get are undeveloped hints at what a great film this could have been.
The curtain opens on Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) and Mike her anxiety plagued boyfriend. The performances here are excellent; Eisenberg and Stewart have great chemistry and really make you care for the couple. But when it turns out Mike has been activated as a sleeper agent for a defunct CIA project, they must fight for their lives. Sadly the CIA plot is contrived and the film would have benefited from a simpler explanation to Mikes predicament.
American Ultra is surprisingly violent. The action is bloody, Mike is skilled at using improvised object turning him into a lethal Jackie Chan-like weapon. These scenes are nothing special but the ideas and potential they cruelly hint at could have made them so much more. A fight in a neon rave room and a final showdown in a supermarket offering countless improvised weapons fall flat. American Ultra forgets the quirks it introduces and more importantly forgets to be funny. One scene Mike and Phoebe are a heart-warming couple laughing over Mike’s graphic novel, the next mike is spraying the brains of someone suffering from mental health problems over the floor. This highlights perhaps another glaring issue, the disposable goons are people suffering from mental health issues manipulated by the CIA. They become offensive stereotypes and one by one these ‘crazy’ ‘psychotic’ victims are killed. While Mike has a revelation towards the end that these people are just as much victims of the CIA as he is, it doesn’t really absolve the portrayal.
American Ultra could have been so much more, a director adept at visual comedy like Edgar Wright could have made for some truly spectacular and hilarious action scenes. As it stands the CIA sequences are dull, poorly acted and over scripted. For A comedy you’ll rarely laugh and in a few cases when the film remembers to be funny the jokes are poor. Weirdly and perhaps worst of all the end sequence teases everything the film could have been, It remembers the to blend comedy and action and the credits treat you to a bright and colourful action sequence depicted by the Characters from Mike’s comic. Watching this sequence truly makes you realise what this film could have been.
Worth a trip to the cinema?
– Missed potential
– Poor humour
Eisenberg and Stewart provide great performances to a mediocre film that cruelly teases it’s potential but fails to deliver.