Movie Review: ‘AMERICAN ULTRA’ – A New Hero is Bourne

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Gwen Reyes // Writer

AMERICAN ULTRA | 95 min | R
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton, and Topher Grace

It’s always the best idea to start at the beginning when telling a story.

It started with a bang… but isn’t that how all action films should start? With a bang, an explosion, even a mess of blood splattered across the faces of our story’s leads? I think so, and AMERICAN ULTRA delivers all that by the bucket load. A film with very little to offer going in, turned out to be a surprise delight; a completely fantastic film about two lovers trying to uncover truth and escape the government before they kill them all. The filmmakers are also totally unafraid to blow some stuff up.

Jesse Eisenberg (THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and Kristen Stewart (THE TWILIGHT SAGA) reunite as Mike and Phoebe, a couple who live a fairly boring life in West Virginia. They are super in love, warts and all, and spend every minute they can together. Mike is so far gone for Phoebe, a woman without whom he cannot remember his life, that he plans a romantic trip to Hawaii with the explicit purpose of finally proposing to her. Of course, Eisenberg plays up Mike’s eccentricities and nervousness with perfect aplomb, and it comes as no surprise that Mike’s panic attacks keep him and Phoebe from getting on the plane. The pair return home, a little worse for wear – Mike profusely apologizing, Phoebe being the ever patient girlfriend and forgiving him – but Mike tries to make it up to her.

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Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart reunite on screen in AMERICAN ULTRA. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

Mike and Phoebe try to move on from the misstep and get back to their normal lives, but of course there is something afoot and truly to blame for Mike’s irrational anxiety, and it comes to ahead the next night when Mike is attacked by a pair of hooded dudes in the parking lot of the convenience store where he works. In a split second the chill stoner violently defends himself and kills the two would-be assassins. Mike panics, calls Phoebe, and together the two of them begin a giant race against time and the CIA.

Every twist of AMERICAN ULTRA takes a page out of the DEGRASSI handbook and “goes there.” It is quite a hilarious trip when it is not deliciously violent. Yes, sometimes the violence borders on obscene or over-the-top, but that is also what makes it so intoxicating and exhilarating. The script penned by Max Landis (CHRONICLE) and directed by Nima Nourizadeh (PROJECT X) is a perfect balance of funny, touching, and snarky. The pair never shy away from asking if Jason Bourne was a stoner rather than a human machine, would he still be just ask effective. I’d like to say yes, and that Eisenberg is the perfect replacement.

Now, grab a cup of noodles and enjoy AMERICAN ULTRA, in theaters today.

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