American Ultra is not a masterpiece in any sense of the word. The plot is ridiculous, the fight scenes are over-the-top, and there seems to be confusion within itself as to whether it’s meant to be viewed as a genuine thriller or a stoner parody of action movies. With all that being said, I must admit that I was oddly charmed and captivated by the whole experience.
Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), live a typical pot-induced life. After a botched trip to Hawaii (Mike is too busy puking to board the flight in time), we learn that Mike has never been able to leave the small town in which he and Phoebe live. From there on their slow moving, but love-filled, life takes a turn from the extreme. Mike quickly learns he has a multitude of hidden abilities and memories while he and Phoebe run away from secret agents who want him dead. Yes, it’s just as crazy as it sounds.
And yes, there are other characters and other agendas and subplots, but they’re all very forgettable.
All of the entertainment and appeal lies with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. There’s just a certain adorable factor with seeing them on screen together. Eisenberg plays a perfect puppy-love stoner. And Kristen Stewart does a great job letting herself shine at all the right moment. She is never just his sidekick. In fact, they both seem to balance each other’s times to shine perfectly. And while almost every other character’s depth is comparable to cardboard, Eisenberg and Stewart paint the movie with enough personality and realistic love to make the whole adventure fun to watch.
So maybe the fact that the other characters aren’t as memorable isn’t such a bad thing. It’s like watching a superhero cartoon. Sure, there are other things going on, and the villains are cool and the action is cool, but you’re really watching it for the superheroes. You’re watching it for what they’ll say and what they’ll do next. And in American Ultra, those superheroes are Eisenberg and Stewart.
Overall, I liked watching American Ultra. The big screen, however, is not a good place for it. It’s a movie that I really hope comes to Netflix because I can’t wait to curl up at night in my bed and watch the lovable craziness ensue, or to watch with a group of friends in a basement somewhere. It’s got a certain kind of Superbad, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist type of thing going for it and I think that’s a good thing. Don’t steer clear of this one, but know where you’re headed before you make the trip.