American Ultra (2015)

High Adventure

Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Running Time: 96 Minutes
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale

Often reserved for comedy films, the sub-genre of stoner films has somewhat resurged in the Harold and Kumar series and the films of Seth Rogen. To help the film stand apart from these wacky comedies, Max Landis dips into the action genre and includes CIA material, to deliver something entert

Stoner Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) lives with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), spending his days getting high and working on his graphic novel about a superhero monkey. What he doesn't know is the CIA trained him to be a lethal killing machine, who must fight for his and Phoebe's life when he's targeted for termination.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are good examples of actors who are regularly lambasted, and whether this is warranted is up to you. The duo have proven their acting ability before in past pictures, as seen in previous collaboration Adventureland, and manage to do so once more. The duo deliver a relationship here which feels sweet and believable, thanks to the wonderful chemistry and performances of the two leads.

Jesse Eisenberg proves effective as the skilled killer who's been recently activated, yet unable to comprehend how they're suddenly able to do such a thing. Despite all this, he's just a guy who wants to propose to the woman he loves, and live a happy life with her, which helps to ground him and make him relatable. Thankfully, Kristen Stewart's role is more than the typical girlfriend who's there to react to what her boyfriend does, as Phoebe manages to hold her own during the ensuing madness, while a twist in the story turns her into an even more interesting character. As the films antagonist, Yates is the type of person willing to backstab, undercut and suck up in order to advance himself. Topher Grace manages to easily sell this, proving to be effective.

Director Nima Nourizadeh puts some gorgeous shots on screen, offering more to the eyes than just the gleefully fun action that's full of energy. However, the tone is in need of straightening out. There's a great deal of humour, but it's more effective during the action/adventure moments. When you get down to it, the bureaucratic scenes aren't as interesting as anything involving Mike and Phoebe.

American Ultra is a fun ride through stoner comedy and action/adventure, but remains a charming love story at its core. It's worth watching for anyone who's wondered what death by dustpan or frozen burgers looks like.