FILM REVIEW: 'AMERICAN ULTRA' Kicks Ass with Obscure Humour and Graphic Violence
'American Ultra' charms with an eclectic mix of bloodbath action, oddball hilarity and quiet contemplation. Helmed by the director of 'Project X' and written by a man whom I argue to be the most unique talent in scriptwriting right now, 'American Ultra' is worth the trip to the cinema. Jesse Eisenberg leads as Mike Howell, a stoner/screwup who can't seem to get his shit together. Phoebe Larson (played by Kristen Stewart) is Mike's longtime girlfriend, but their relationship hits rocky ground when Mike is found to be a super skilled super government agent- he just doesn't know it yet.
'American Ultra' is the television series 'Chuck' tossed in a blender with a joint and two pints of blood, which in all seriousness should not work at all. On paper, it's ludicrous and on screen you can't help but buy into the fiction.
Max Landis' script grounds Eisenberg and Stewart as two ordinary people caught in very extraordinary circumstances, and their experience is the heart and backbone that make me want to come back again and again.
Every character in 'American Ultra' has sensibilities that scream Max Landis. Their dialogue, facial expressions and delivery are so Landis that you can tell the difference. Secondary characters played by Topher Grace, Connit Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo and Tony Hale are a joy to watch on screen, and even if they are a little one dimensional, their sensibilities and personality traits more than make up for it.
Landis constructs a well-paced story through and through. The first ten minutes open by giving us character motivation for our leads and a fantastic analogy involving a tree and a car that sets up the inner turmoil going through Mike and Phoebe's relationship.
Director Nima Nourizadeh achieves a careful blend of crazy blood fuelled action (which is fantastically inventive), Landis' obscure humour that makes you laugh for reasons you can't explain and truly excels in the quiet moments that ground this otherwise sensory bombarding film.
The chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart cannot be overstated here - it is incredibly compelling and you can't help but root for the couple. Perhaps it's because Stewart and Eisenberg have partnered up before in 2009's 'Adventureland,' or maybe they're just great actors. I like to think it's a little bit of both.
Finally, if you thought Kristen Stewart was a terrible actor and couldn't do anything but 'Twilight,' you were wrong. She plays the part of loving girlfriend, fearing for her and her boyfriend's life but at the same time, Landis has written a very strong character (which is a win for feminism if you're into that sort of thing). Stewart doesn't get rescued like clockwork, she has a confidence in herself and kicks enough ass to redefine how you look at her because let's face it, she's kinda hot.
'American Ultra' takes you on a ride that excites as it unfolds before your eyes. If not for Landis' unique brand of script and humour, this kind of film would never have seen the light of day, and I think that's a testament to not only his talent, but sheer inventiveness that never ceases to amaze me.
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