Opinions were split, but I did not care. I was really excited to see ‘American Ultra’ because I really like Jesse Eisenberg and his catalogue of work. I also like the chemistry he and Kristen Stewart have. They were decent in ‘Adventureland’ and it looked like they were going to be even better in ‘American Ultra’. With all of this being said, were my expectations toward the film accurate or were they swayed by the big name stars?
Mike (Eisenberg) lives with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart). Both love each other very much. Mike is even planning on marrying Phoebe, he’s just waiting for the right moment. Did I mention that Mike and Phoebe are stoners? No? Well… They’re stoners. Secretly, however, Mike is actually a robot. Not technically, but he is controlled by the CIA. You see, he’s a highly-trained, rather lethal, sleeper agent. Just say the right combination of words and “BOOM!”, he’s activated.
The very first thing that caught my attention was the cinematography; if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a sucker for impressive cinematography. Anyway, we see Eisenberg looking like The Joker and we wonder how he got those scars – excuse my deviation -to put it plainly, Eisenberg is beaten up badly. The way they shoot this particular shot was pretty cool. The movie then starts to rewind itself, going back to where it all started. I thought that the rewind technique was just as cool as the shot of Eisenberg’s messed up face. Long story short, the cinematography techniques were superb.
Moving on, I have to give credit to John Leguizamo’s character, and in particular his performance in this role. Watching his very conscious effort to act like an “original gangsta”, named Rose, was priceless! The compensatory overacting on his behalf – trying too hard to be something that he is not, was very entertaining. Leguizamo wasn’t the only one to stand out. Kristen Stewart delivered probably my favourite performance of them all, because this is such a transformative performance. It was as though she was the robot! At times, I forgot it was Kristen Stewart who was acting half of the time. And as expected, Eisenberg’s and Stewart’s chemistry is even better here than it was in ‘Adventureland’. Bonus!
My main problem with ‘American Ultra’ – and this is because I’m sensitive to hearing – was that my particular screening seemed beyond loud. It bugged me and made me on edge, probably more than I should have been. I know that this may not be the case at other screenings, but it is worth noting… just in case. Despite this, the volume and vivacity of the sound did add to the overall experience by making me feel more immersed. It’s a movie that’s meant to be seen in the theaters due to the sound alone. Aside from the performances and the cinematography, the action itself was pretty good. The best part – similar to ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, and ‘John Wick’ – the characters and their motives were easily differentiated. ‘American Ultra’ also had the same type of violence found in the other movies previously mentioned; gory but nothing we can’t handle.
Overall, ‘American Ultra’ is another really good entry into the action-comedy genre. It feels like a combination of different action movies whilst still maintaining an air of originality. The loudness bugged me, but I liked the sound effects. I wish it was slightly more graphic in its depiction of violence, but I can understand why it wasn’t – it didn’t need to be. Basically, with every positive there’s a negative. It’s nothing special or new, but it’s really fun. The performances and the cinematography were standout aspects, but everything else was pretty good too, making ‘American Ultra’ a film I would definitely recommend.
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart