This is one of those films that is worth both seeing and overlooking.
Watching Director Nima Nourizadeh’s R-rated American Ultra is like sitting in an audience where someone secretly laced your popcorn with LSD. It is a wild ride from beginning to end, and you leave the theater with the inevitable feeling that you really liked a lot of it although you can’t recall what it actually was about.
This is a slam-bang affair where every major character is either killed or brutally beaten. If you think I am exaggerating, then contemplate a scene near the end where Jesse Eisenberg fulfills his goal to propose to Kristen Stewart. Despite the fact that both were covered with blood while surrounded by armed government agents, you are not likely to see a more bizarre romantic encounter in any film this year.
And while the violence will be a turnoff for some, it actually becomes an enjoyable comic adventure. Mr. Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, a confused young man running a convenience store who can’t recall his past. After he eliminates two vicious hit men in a manner that astonishes himself, he is about to discover that he has been surgically altered by the CIA to become a killing machine.
Reawakened to his condition with the help of his former supervisor, played with a bit of spunk by Connie Britton, and realizing that the government had previously sent him packing to live quietly on his own, he is forced to confront the reality that he has become a target of his own government’s attempt to quietly kill him. Just be advised that the theme of this movie is reduced to a simplistic formula, namely kill or be killed.
Eisenberg and Stewart make for an intriguing couple, and you begin to think of them as a cross between Bonnie and Clyde and Romeo and Juliet. However, the movie is tremendously helped by some crazed performances from supporting actors. To begin with, Topher Grace is immensely entertaining as the egotistical head of the CIA unit that seeks to destroy Eisenberg, and he might be the most satirically funny bad guy you are going to see on the screen this year.
Not to be overlooked is the wild performance by John Leguizamo, here playing the crazed drug dealer who supplies Eisenberg with the joy of his life, namely marijuana. However, Walton Goggins steals the film as the toothless CIA operative called Laugher, a deranged man who breaks into a sardonic cackle before eliminating an intended prey.
Though this film is likely to disappear from the screen without much attention, it has unique style that finds a way to force you to smile while simultaneously causing you to cover your eyes. So buy a ticket, fake like you’re on an acid trip and curse yourself for finding the movie regrettably enjoyable.
After all, the violence inflicted on Ms. Stewart is justifiable given the pain endured by millions of moviegoers flowing from her regrettable role in the Twilight films.