American Ultra revolves around stoner couple Mike and Phoebe (Jesse Eisenberg & Kristen Stewart) whose cliche’ existence are thrown into disarray when it is discovered power happy CIA middle manager (Topher Grace) plans on killing Mike as he is an ex experiment that is in direct competition of his own… until he was re-activated.
The feature is a dramatisation of the illegal MKUltra experiments undertaken in the USA during the 50’s and 60’s where the CIA used unwitting citizens to test drugs that were being developed for interrogation. While this at least is not another reboot it is however further testament to Hollywood’s complete lack of innovation when it comes to creating a unique story and instead goes about making money off exploiting a tragedy and turning it into a comedy.
The way the roles were cast and the script was written lends itself to the characters having chemistry and being convincing but what it inevitably means is that pretty much none of the cast actually needed to do any acting. A couple of them essentially became cartoons of characters they were portraying and virtually none of them had any interesting progress. I say virtually because Kristen Stewart was the standout. She showed a depth and vulnerability the rest of the cast were missing and had a magnetism while on screen you couldn’t ignore.
The story moves at a good pace and uses plenty of action to stop the movie from stagnating but one thing it unfortunately doesn’t do is stop the predictability of the plot. Characters motivations are laid out for us in a child like way and there is no mystery to what is happening. Some creative action makes you temporarily forget this but what the film ends up being is a mishmash of The Long Kiss Goodnight and Pineapple Express.
Kristen Stewart steals the show and the action at times was pretty brutal. The comedy here is mostly juvenile and mistimed, and even though there were a couple of chuckles what we’re left with is something that while entertaining is not as funny as it thinks it is. Not bad but not good either.