American Ultra – Should I Watch It?

Intro to… American Ultra
About a month ago director Josh Trank went nuts on Twitter trying to distance himself from the inevitable flop Fantastic Four was going to be. Well this time it is Max Landis, who previously worked together with Trank on Chronicle, who rants on the death of original Hollywood movies because American Ultra is not considered an instant classic. Is this movie really as good as Landis claims? Should you watch it?

The Plot
It is just another day in the sleepy town of Liman, West Virginia. Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) works at the local convenience store when an unknown woman approaches the counter and speaks some nonsense. Though Mike does not know it yet, she uttered an activation code that gradually unlocks his suppressed memories of when he was a trained CIA operative.

Later that night Mike sees some guys messing around his car. He steps out and gets attacked by these men. They pull weapons and Mike’s muscle memory kicks in and outright kills them. Shocked by what he did he calls his girlfriend, Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart). She gets to them just before the police show up and they get arrested on suspicion of murder. Not long after two more hitmen shoot up the police station. Mike takes one out but one thing is sure, someone really wants them dead, and they have no idea who or why.

Should I Watch It?
If you have read about American Ultra before you might have noticed that I did not write about Mike and Phoebe being stoners. And that is for one very good reason: it carries no significance to the plot. Calling them stoners is just a cheap marketing ploy to draw people to the cinema. Doing drugs, even in countries that have legalised it, remains a controversial topic and just mentioning the word draws interest. This movie is more Twilight fan-fiction than it is a stoner comedy.

The story of a small town clerk who has no idea that he is a sleeper agent suddenly being activated and hunted by a to him unknown group of assassins is actually pretty interesting. And I was honestly quite curious which direction this movie would take. But boy was I in for a surprise.

The first five minutes spoil the entire movie. We get to see Mike in handcuffs about to recount the story followed by all the major points in the movie shot in reverse. Well, there goes all the tension. We already know everything that is going to happen. I could have walked out of the cinema and written this review in exactly the same manner. And maybe I should have.

The acting in American Ultra is dramatic. Jesse Eisenberg lacks any comedic timing and is unconvincing in both being a helpless stoner and a highly trained operative. Kristen Stewart reprises her role as the mindless man-obsessed love interest that seems to be incapable of ever closing her mouth. Admittedly, Topher Grace, playing the man who is in charge of the hitmen, does as good as a job he can do considering the script.

The strongest part of many movies is their trailer. American Ultra showed a trailer with interesting characters and perfect comedic timing. It promised characters that would light-heartedly face a serious and intimidating threat. In stead we got uninteresting characters, a ridiculous story, and over-the-top nonsensical destruction.

Just before the movie started a friend and I were arguing on what was so far the worst movie of 2015. He said the dullness of Fantastic Four was worse than the unfunniness of Pixels, whereas I claimed the opposite. After seeing this movie we both agreed on who deserved this title. I do not only not recommend watching this movie; I encourage you to watch something else.

No, don’t watch it.


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