I tagged this stylish over the top action movie as a potential sleeper hit a few months ago. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m pleased to say that this is a very entertaining movie that surprised me in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my lofty expectations of being one of the year’s best films. That doesn’t mean it was a bad movie, however, as American Ultra is very entertaining in it’s own dark, quirky way.
I’ll say right now that this is a strange movie. It’s nowhere near as comedic as the trailers make it out to be. While it does stay true to the premise of a stoner loser who learns he’s really a secret agent, the movie approaches the story from some odd angles. It’s at times very dark, at times really funny, at times completely ridiculous, and at other times incredibly sad.
It’s this range of tones that make American Ultra so interesting, but it’s also this range of tones that holds this movie back. While I really appreciate the ambition it takes to constantly shift the tone of your movie, it definitely made it a little difficult to connect to American Ultra.
Despite this issue, American Ultra is a very entertaining movie. Star Jesse Eisenberg really shines in the film. His commitment to the odd main character is impressive. At times his neurosis are funny, but there’s also a deep sadness to this stunted character. Watching him struggle against evil super agents is thrilling, but the movie is almost better when you’re watching Eisenberg struggle against his own character flaws.
I was expecting comedy and action from this movie, and it delivers those just fine. One thing that was unexpected is the love story within the film. Like the rest of the movie, it’s a little odd and a little unconventional, but it’s also really warm and unexpected among the ridiculous nature of the film. Kristen Stewart really carries her half of this romance well. It’s doubtful the Twilight star will ever win over her many detractors, but she’s got an undeniable presence that, while odd, adds a lot to any movie she’s in.
As silly as it may sound, one of the ways in which American Ultra let me down was in the action department. A fantastic final action sequence in a grocery store displayed some incredible ingenuity, finishing the film off with a bang. Sadly, most other action sequences in the film were very short. Even though those short sequences were often interesting and inventive, there just wasn’t enough there to really bite into.
Any time a movie can surprise me I’m happy, and that definitely happened with American Ultra. This is a quirky, dark, oddball, over the top action comedy drama. It’s definitely not a movie for everyone. It’s got some very violent moments and lots of bad language. But if you’re in the mood for something different and some very quirky characters, this is a movie you’re going to want to check out.
THREE AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE STARS
This movie is rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content