American Ultra

 
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Release date: Aug. 21, 2015

Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh

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

Budget: $28 million

Box office: $30.3 million

 

The government seeks to retire an unassuming stoner who was once part of a secret program.

Despite having a few fun scenes and throwing audience an interesting concept of a weed-smoking everyman who happens to be the remnant of a government program meant to create secret agents, American Ultra ends up being a boring film. It comes off as confused, too, unsure whether it wants to be a light-hearted stoner comedy or a high-octane action film. It fails in both aspects. Only some of the humor lands and most of the elements surrounding Mike’s characterization as a normal person who enjoys cannabis feel contrived. Further, the action sequences seem forced and arbitrary, failing to impress.

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The film also fails at trying to be itself, instead choosing to copy other more successful films in its endeavors. However, while the components it takes from those films did well in their respective stories, they are implemented in a subpar manner in this one. For one, creating a story around a mild-mannered person who finds themselves caught up in a plot they have no real desire to be in and just want to be left alone is enjoyable yet feels lifeless in this film. The action sequence during the climax was another unoriginal idea though it left out the pacing and cinematography found in other film.

Additionally, the film has a gaping point of inconsistency surrounding Mike’s girlfriend. It treats the revelation of who she actually is like it has massive implications. In and of itself, it’s a fascinating idea, hitting the audience with the idea that not everyone is who they claim to be and nobody can be trusted but the context of the film makes this revelation nonsensical at best. The way she acts at the beginning, when she’s alone, is not logical given what the audience has found out about her, nor are the reactions she’s giving throughout the course of the film.

This film could have been so much more. Nevertheless, its attempts at imitating better films leave much to be desired.