~ Kate Bonner
I was really excited to see American Ultra. The marketing and advertising was geared directly towards me: early 30’s, self-deprecating, not meeting my potential, inexplicably neurotic and slightly phobic of personal success….Sometimes the word “awkward” just doesn’t cover it. I live primarily in my head and I can relate to just about anything due to having read, watched or researched about “it” but avoiding at all cost living through “it”. It’s rare that a character can be all these things, and likeable and relatable. Mike Howell, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is unapologetically flawed. His girlfriend is just a little too supportive, and his surroundings are just a little too sterile. Almost like the CIA manipulated his surroundings…don’t worry, this is not a spoiler. The trailers for this movie spelled it out.
The plot is predicable, but that’s because American Ultra is not meant to be a ground-breaking mystery thriller, by any means. It is meant to be funny and uses the Bourne plot devise (who am I? Why does everyone want to kill me?!) to move the story of a troubled young man forward and leave room for the audience to enjoy the violent dark comedy.
I guess American Ultra could be called a stoner film. Weed is present. It is advertised as such – But not in a Seth Rogan, “everything is better with pot” kind of way. There was no manic laughing and party montages to a gangster rap soundtrack. No one wakes up in a trunk, or has a charismatic pet that takes nut shots or trips balls. Can I say that? I’m going to say it because we’re talking about a movie that has a scene where Mike kills two people with a styrofoam cup of Mr. Noodles and a spoon, so…
I was pretty impressed with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewarts chemistry; American Ultra being the second film they have co-starred in, they seem to cancel out each other’s unbearable awkwardness. Kristen Stewart is the girl that the media loves to hate for her twitchy energy, her curt tone, and her unwillingness to play the media game. Jesse Eisenberg seems to have his fast talking, neurotic, anti-social characters with a flair for stumbling and fearful body language, down pat. His formula seems to work for him, and by adding the very understated, yet incredibly violent stunts his character involuntarily acts out on any and all threats, he has brought something refreshing to the table.
There is nothing like watching a character that is too uncomfortable in his own skin to carry out even the most basic day-to-day activities flip a switch and turn into an impressive killing machine. To that, I give Jesse Eisenberg some props. The stunts were believable, the editing was spot on and there was no obvious wire work, weird triple flips or jump kicks that defied gravity.
Kristen Stewart was capable, engaging (as much as someone getting the snot beat out of her can be) and she got in a few good right hooks right when it counted. Very gratifying. Topher Grace played the antagonist in a way that made me root for him to get his windpipe crushed. He has this smug way about him that makes it so very satisfying to see him get exactly what he deserves. Poor Topher Grace…the smug little weenie who killed his own career and is now left with loathsome bit parts as a punching bag to the hero. Someone has to do it…I’m glad it’s him.
Now I’m going to talk about Connie Britton. That woman has been aged to perfection and has hair I would cut a B for. Not even kidding. I have a giant-sized lady crush on her and her calm, cool and collected lady swagger. Anyone could have filled her roll in American Ultra…but she has a fantastic motherly and knowing quality that makes me feel like she has everything under control. This worked perfectly for her part as Agent Victoria Lasseter. She is the reason Mike Howell is a sleeper agent and the reason he was brainwashed and put back into society poorly coping with life in general. She feels bad when she gets word he will be destroyed by the CIA so she “activates” him so he can defend himself. You know…in an indirect attempt to murder, kill kill Topher Grace. That smug, smug, little jerk face.
I can’t tell you that films like this are ground breaking or speak volumes about some social commentary we are needing at this time in our political climate…etc. I will say it was different, had some great dry humour, and the actors chosen delivered. I love movies like this. They get me out of my head, give me something to chuckle about and deliver a satisfying “everything works out” ending. I can’t tell you anything about the Bourne movies (American Ultra was spoofing on Bourne) other than Matt Damon (and then bizarre-o Matt Damon and then Matt Damon again) runs for his life. Someone wants to kill him all the time? He is a sleeper agent? There is always a pretty lady…
I can, however, tell you I liked watching Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, with some comic relief, do basically the same thing, but with less big budget explosions or pretty ladies. I recommend American Ultra to the strong-stomached, the good-humoured and those wanting good time entertainment. Shut your critical thinking off and just have some fun watching an awkward stoner and his girlfriend kick some A.
Kate Bonner loves dogs, spends most of her time feeling awkward and trying not to get sunburned.