We’re reaching the end of the packed Summer film season and of course there’s a stoner comedy. This time, Derek and Denis will be taking a look at Max Landis’ newest film, America Ultra. The review will be split into four categories; PLOT, PERFORMANCES, PRODUCTION AND OVERALL FILM QUALITY. They’ll then give the film a score of WATCH IN THEATRES, WAIT FOR STREAMING or PASS. But first here’s a look at the movie’s plot.
American Ultra follows Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), two stoners living in a small town in West Virginia. While Mike seems to be living the typical stoner screwball lifestyle it turns out that he’s actually a former CIA asset with skills and training to kill.
After his former handler Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) is informed that her superior Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) is going to kill Mike to mop up their failure, Victoria warns and activates Mike’s former training.
Mike must try and defend himself and Phoebe from the CIA operatives that try and track them down.
The plot of American Ultra can be easily set up in a few short sentences (as shown above). It’s not deep, it’s not confusing it’s just a quick set up for the fun action and situations that are going to play out of screen. And in a world where people love Mission Impossible for it’s fast moving, overly complicated and ultimately paper thin plot, America Ultra is kind of refreshing. If Ultra’s plot has an issue it’s more in line with it’s dialogue. While writer Max Landis is known for his witty writing, this movie ends up not feeling as strong as his past works.
I think when Derek says it’s not as strong as his past work he means it’s not a YouTube video about wrestling. I on the other hand though that between this and his other notable written work, Chronicle, this was better. Playing with genre tropes like before, but with a better exploration of character and solid pacing. It takes the ideas and concepts behind movies like the Bourne series and develops a more down to earth character that I connected with more that I ever did Bourne. It’s far better than a stoner thriller movie. It’s got plenty of comedy, and heart to make it a standout film of the ones we’ve seen over the past few weeks.
Overall, the acting in this movie isn’t terrible but it’s nothing amazing either. While there are some people who end up standing out like Walton Goggins as the CIA agent Laugher and John Leguizamo as the drug dealer Rose, the main two actors Eisenberg and Stewart come off plain at times. That’s not to say that they don’t have fun moments, as the two really seemed to bond well together in this odd stoner relationship, but there were times where the comedy seemed lost due to their timing and/or some editing. However, no one really gives a bad performance.
I honestly find it difficult to rank peoples performances, unless it’s glaringly awful or awkward. I found that everybody felt natural in the roles. It was well cast, from the common characters to the more off beat ones. Also Eisenberg and Stewart we great in all the action scenes and made them exciting. So good on you casting person!
Amazingly American Ultra was made of only 12 million dollars, and while there wasn’t any major stunt work needed the film looks like it should have a larger price tag. From the sets to even the use of some animation here and there, the film comes off pretty charming overall. From the beginning it was clear that director Nima Nourizadeh had a clear idea for the movie, starting the film near the ending and literally rewinding some of the films major plot points back before starting the plot as a whole. Along the way there are some well thought out action scenes including a few tracking shots used during the films final action scenes. That being said, during the films first big fight, the camera work was a little all over the place and it made the action difficult to follow. Past that the film was well made even down to some of the choices made in it’s soundtrack, the best example being the use of a Hawiian guitar during an action scene calling back to a scene earlier in the film.
It’s the kind of movie that I am eager to see again to catch details that I missed the first time around. The production was relatively small, which was quite noticeable when 17 production company names showed up before the film played. It’s also nice to know on reflection that the director, who’s previous credits include Project X, put together a solid film. It not doubt will become a cult classic that the people will love while critics and douche bags complain about shit that doesn’t matter or was misunderstood. The entire production took 12 mil and made a strong action comedy flick, so they should get a shiny sticker!
I’m quite amazed that critics seem to dislike this movie. In a world where we see so many movies use the same ideas in the same ways to the same effect, American Ultra stands out as something different. Is it an award winning film? No. Will it be a cult classic? Maybe. But is it a terrible movie? Hell no. It’s sweet, creative and at times quite funny and charming. While the main stars might not have rolled the highest charisma points, American Ultra is a solid movie. SEE IN THEATRES.
It’s a movie that I really dug, and has a unique voice and charm that makes it stand out from other stuff we’ve seen. I’m happy to throw out praises of it and tell people they should watch it, because you should. 456 companies threw in money to make it! So watch it for gosh darn sake you commies! SEE IN THEATRES
American Ultra was produced by The Bridge Finance Company, Circle of Confusion, Likely Story, Merced Media Partners, PalmStar Media Capital, PalmStar Entertainment and Tadmor Entertainment. The film is distributed by Lionsgate Films.