American Ultra is a stoner action comedy directed by Nima Nourizade, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kirsten Stewart, Topher Grace, John Leguizamo, and is written by Max Landis. It follows stoner couple Mike (Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Stewart) as they are hunted by government assassins after Mike is revealed to be a sleeper agent. The story of a normal person thrown into a crazy situation is a premise that has been done countless times, but this doesn’t feel cliché as it has a unique feeling. It is full of fun violence and a comedic style, along with well written characters and an energetic pace.
The film’s leads, Eisenberg and Stewart, create a very sweet relationship. They have really good chemistry and are very sympathetic and likeable. They have very personal and touching moments and bring a lot of heart to the roles. The moments of calm when they are just talking to each other in random conversations are the most genuine moments of the film and make these characters very relatable. Their performances are up to standard but expectable. It does feel like you’re watching a stoned version of Jesse Eisenberg at times, which isn’t annoying but predictable. Kirsten Stewart does show quite a good range at times and outshines Eisenberg individually, but these two are strongest when they are together. The characters are very well written by Landis. Their dialogue feels natural and is very energetic and makes these characters stand out more-so than the actors performances.
The other characters don’t stand out as much but are still fun and unique, for the most part. Leguizamo’s character Rose is very energetic and is a lot of fun when he is on screen; I wish he was in the film more though he feels a little wasted. Topher Grace plays Yates, the young over-ambitious agent who is the antagonist of the film. While he has some funny moments, I found him to be mostly annoying and a very weak villain. The other characters are fine and have strong moments but don’t generally stand out as much as Eisenberg and Stewart.
The film has a constant fast pace; when it does slow down it isn’t for long and generally holds the energy quite well. There are some very funny filmmaking techniques, such as really creative snappy editing that leads to some brilliant visual comedy. The film feels very quirky and fun, because of Nourizade’s very unique direction, and this is what makes this film stand out a bit more than the other films of this nature. This direction is accompanied with some really truthful writing by Landis, who creates quite a fun plot. It is comedic and flows really well. It is quite a weird film and definitely a stoner comedy (like the Big Lebowski or Pineapple Express), so if you’re not a fan of the more odd style of comedy then you might not enjoy it as much.
The action scenes are largely very well made, especially the final fight. Some of the earlier fights have a lot of cuts which make it a little hard to follow but it’s not distracting and they are still fun and gripping. This film also has some amazing moments of unconventional weaponry which are tones of fun! Things like spoons and dustpans are turned into deadly weapons and it’s very entertaining to see.
American Ultra is a lot of fun if you’re into this style of film. It isn’t the most re-watchable film as its premise is quite simple, but it is worth seeing as its fun and energetic.
P.S. I have a bit of a connection with this film as it’s the first film I went to see with my girlfriend.