Movie: American Ultra
My Rating: 4 stars
This movie was a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be. But, that usually happens when I only have a very fuzzy idea about the plot of a movie. I knew the story had something to do with the MK Ultra program, or some kind of Manchurian Candidate scenario. And, I knew that Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart were the the main protagonists. I’m a fan of Eisenberg’s understated, befuddled brand of humor. And, I have an unnatural attraction to Kristen Stewart. So, I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy this film even though I wasn’t entirely sure why. But, I’ve learned that those vague, undefinable hunches are usually the most accurate.
So, this movie is, indeed, a story about a secret government program that brainwashes useless criminals into being super-skilled (but dormant), covert agents. That’d be Jesse Eisenberg. Of course, he has no idea that he has all this top-secret training just waiting to be unlocked by hearing the right code words. As far as he knows, he’s just a stoner, convenience store clerk, who lives with his equally marijuana-addled girlfriend (Stewart). It’s a simple life, but he doesn’t really have any higher ambitions. The setup takes place in the small, West Virginia town that these two kids live in. But, it quickly morphs into an incredibly wild, supper violent, explosion-filled, action flick as the government descends upon the town. The government wants to end the program. And, that means “neutralizing” all these dormant field assets. But Eisenberg’s case manager (Connie Britton) has other ideas. She has an affection for this bumbling fool and doesn’t want to see him eliminated. So, before the CIA’s tactical team can move into town to take him out, she sneaks into this workplace, and secretly “activates” him. And, that’s when the story turns into a wild killing spree. It’s crazy.
This movie is a really fun time, and I recommend it pretty broadly. It’s big, and outrageous, and very funny in places, too. Of course, you need to keep in mind that this is a very violent movie, but it’s cartoonish in tone and scale. Eisenberg and Stewart play wonderful stoners. Topher Grace is detestable as the movie’s villain. And, John Leguizamo is the comic relief as the most perfectly disgusting dirtbag (similar to his character in Sisters, actually). It’s a wonderful circus of personalities, and I think you’ll enjoy it.