Published Aug 20, 2015American Ultra is a fitting title for Jessie Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart's latest movie together. It's an action-packed, recreational drug-referencing spy thriller that tries to be everything and anything you'd want in an end of summer movie.
It manages to accomplish its goals, for the most part, with elaborate action scenes involving lead character Mike Howell (played by Eisenberg) — a run of the mill convenience store clerk with a penchant for pot who discovers he's been brainwashed into forgetting his past as a secret agent — and the endless array of sick and sadistic government goons that are out to destroy him.
Think The Bourne Identity-meets-Pineapple Express and you're close to getting the vibe of American Ultra. Sure, there are elements that resemble the over-the-top hijinks of seemingly every recent Seth Rogen film and its stoner brethren before it, but the film mostly uses Mike's marijuana use as a fun character trait that helps subdue the seriousness of some action scenes when they get a little too over-the-top in the violence department. In doing so, American Ultra seems less like the kind of film that hardcore stoners would actually enjoy ripping a joint to (watching former The Shield star Walton Goggins get his teeth shattered on screen is a serious bummer), but more like the kind of movie occasional pot smokers would accidentally stumble into and enjoy, and that kind of seems to be the idea here.
American Ultra's director is Nima Nourizadeh, a man whose previous claim to fame was filming the 2012 party movie Project X. It's a smart pairing, as the film is being positioned as a frivolous feature to cap off the summer's action blockbuster season, and is coming out a week or two before most of the audience it's targeted towards is either going back to school or starting up at university.
Fun is the name of the game here, and American Ultra delivers in that department, keeping things light on storyline in favour of stylized action scenes and onscreen anarchy. It's an unlikely film starring an unlikely action hero, but don't be surprised if you see a few of its posters up on dorm room walls come frosh week.