There is nothing more dangerous than a stoned cold killer!
AMERICAN ULTRA (2015) is an action, adventure, comedy (?) by Lionsgate. The movie is about a stoner who discovers he is actually a sleeper agent and part of a secret government program. The stars of the film are Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, and Connie Britton. It was written by Max Landis and directed by Nima Nourizadeh.
JESSE EISENBERG as Mike Howell
KRISTEN STEWART as Phoebe Larson
TOPHER GRACE as Adrian Yates
CONNIE BRITTON as Victoria Lasseter
WALTON GOGGINS as Laugher
JOHN LEGUIZAMO as Rose
BILL PULLMAN as Raymond Krueger
TONY HALE as Petey Douglas
APOLLO APE as Himself
Mike Howell is a stoner living with his girlfriend Phoebe in a small town called Liman in West Virginia. Mike has a host of phobias including the inability to leave town and works as a clerk at a convenience store. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, errmmm . . . sorry, meanwhile at C.I.A. Headquarters, Victoria Lasseter receives a mysterious phone call informing her that her asset Mike Howell from her Wiseman Program has been targeted for termination. After confirming the information with her rival Adrian Yates she takes off for Liman and thru the use of coded phrases she activates Mike turning him into a super assassin. What happens next is a smorgasbord of action and violence as Yates keeps trying to kill Mike and losing agents in the process. This movie is full of surprises. Some of them major and some of them minor but every character manages to pull off a surprise at some point during the course of the movie. Because of this I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot. I want you to see this movie so forgive me for glossing over the story. Suffice it to say that in the end Mike and Phoebe make the world safe for democracy, mom, and apple pie.
- AMERICAN ULTRA is often described as “Stoner Bourne” – and rightly so. The film takes place in West Virginia in a town called Liman. The director of the BOURNE IDENTITY (2002) was Doug Liman.
- At the San Diego Comic Con, as a promotional stunt, Lionsgate gave away free marijuana to anyone with a medical marijuana card.
- Author Stephen King said via Twitter: “Saw AMERICAN ULTRA last night and loved it. Fresh and exciting, very cool. Can’t figure out why it isn’t a smash.”
- This movie was badly promoted. Multiple sources called the film a comedy adventure. It is not that funny. There are comedic moments and you do laugh but the movie is more about the violence and the action then it is about any funny bits. At best it can be described as an adventure with comedy. Promoting it as a comedy adventure made it sound like GET SMART (2008) and that it ain’t. That may have been one of the things that led to its demise at the box office.
- The biggest problem with this movie is that it was miscast. I’m sorry but Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are just not right for their roles. Even if you accept that the producers intended this to be seen as a comedy adventure, they are not funny nor exciting, so they fail on both accounts.
- There are glaring holes in the plot. This is one of those times where I cannot go into detail without giving away one of the surprises of the movie. Let’s just say that after the truth is revealed about one of the characters, what that person did earlier now makes no sense whatsoever.
- Originally it was supposed to be Uma Thurman but she dropped out. Then it was Sharon Stone but she dropped out as well. Then finally we got Connie Britton – which was the best of the bunch and she plays my favorite character in the film.
- There is a scene with a frying pan – that alone is worth the price of admission!
- There is a scene where our hero Mike is about to sit down to some soup, and he winds up killing two guys with a spoon. Never mess with a guy when he is going to eat his Ramen!
- The action sequences are nice! Another actor playing Mike would have made it more believable, but the action pieces themselves are nicely done.
- Topher Grace makes a great bad guy. In fact, lately that is all he has been playing and he is getting good at it. Practice makes perfect.
- It was nice to see Bill Pullman. Someone should give him a role where he gets a chance to smile. Haven’t seen him smile in a while.
- Being a comics fan I got a kick out of the whole Apollo Ape thing.
I have never made a secret that I love secret agent movies. Which is why I watched AMERICAN ULTRA. It belongs to that sub-genre of secret agent movies I call “the Jason Bourne syndrome.” That is where the lead is a sleeper agent and discovers he or she can do all these marvelous things. The first example of this that I can recall is THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996) starring Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson. I may be wrong and there may be an example earlier than this. If so, will someone kindly let me know?
AMERICAN ULTRA is by no means a great movie. It had potential but that potential was never met. However, I was entertained for 96 minutes. For 96 minutes I forgot about my troubles and was transported into another world – a flawed world perhaps but still it held my interest. To be honest all I ask of a movie is it entertain me. It is nice when you get more than your money’s worth. Award winning acting, award winning directing, award winning music – anything award winning is nice but that is just icing on the cake. The cake is – was I entertained? The answer for me is yes, AMERICAN ULTRA did entertain me. It is not a great movie, but it is a good movie.
If you’re looking for a great secret agent movie of the caliber of TRIPLE X (2002), GOLDENEYE (1995), and INNOCENT BYSTANDERS (1972) – I just named my three favorite secret agent movies – then you’re going to be disappointed. Re-watch NO TIME TO DIE (2021) instead. But if you’re looking to just kill 96 minutes then check out AMERICAN ULTRA. If you’re not expecting much you won’t be disappointed.
For that reason and no other I am happy to give AMERICAN ULTRA three gray geeks.
Well gang it is time to say goodbye. Some of you probably noticed that I hadn’t been posting anything for a while. The adapter cord for my modem got frayed. I have cats. Yes, I am a cat lover and my three cats chewed up the cord for my modem and it took me three months to get it fixed. It’s a long story and I’ll share it with you some other time. Suffice it to say I am back and I’m happy to have spent this time with you. I hope you feel the same. Until next time, adios compadres and remember – wherever you are that’s where you’ll be. Excelsior!