Vic's Flick Picks
(3 popcorn boxes)
Well, this was a surprise. Surprising because I had heard nothing about this film before I saw it in the trusty Cinema Hollywood movie listing. Surprising because it showed flashes of brilliant dark comedy. Surprising because it ultimately failed in picking a direction.
American Ultra starts slowly by introducing us to Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). Mike is a bit of a stoner and a loser who works at the grocery mart in West Virginia. Don’t let that fool you into thinking we might be heading to a funny Clerks atmosphere.
We are carried to CIA Headquarters where Agent Lassetter (Connie Britton) is being anonymously tipped off that her Ultra program is targeted for extermination. She immediately confronts Agent Yates (Topher Grace) who quite clearly tells her to buzz off, it’s his decision. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is heading to a nifty Bourne Identity caper.
Yates sends super stealthy assassins to eliminate Mike – yep, he’s a sleeper agent – but not before Lassetter arrives to "active” him. You see, Mike doesn’t know he is an agent. So, Mike efficiently dispatches the two killers. Quickly and hilariously. And this escalates with Yates sending more killers...failing and even traveling to West Virginia himself all to no avail.
I enjoyed American Ultra (even if I have no idea why they tacked "American” in front of Ultra). I found it quirky and violent, much like a Quentin Tarrantino film. The stoner aspect was distracting and didn’t really add to the comedy – not like a Pineapple Express for example. And the super-spy aspect wasn’t too bad. Eisenberg has (as always) perfect comedic timing and kept me interested in what Mike would do next. It was almost always funny, but almost never original.
Three boxes out of five for American Ultra. I was disappointed that writer Max Landis and director Nima Nourizadeh held back on a truly dark comedy (like Kick Ass or Reservoir Dogs) and skimped on some of the gore. A weird thing to find fault with, I know. But why take the wrapper off the candy bar and just look at it? Take a bite! Dive in! American Ultra is rated R for violence and language, but what could have and should have been a brilliant and climactic ending petered out into a smirky 007 wanna be.
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Eisenberg also starred in this 2009 perfect dark comedy also featuring Woody Harrelson.
LAST WEEK’S MOVIE TRIVIA
Armie Hammer was in another television series remake….this 2013 film which starred Johnny Depp – which I didn’t hate as much as others did�int praise, right? The Lone Ranger.