Imagine a sweet love story of two happy stoners deeply in love. In a small town, complete in their small lives. The first 27 minutes of AMERICAN ULTRA is a sonata to the dream of contentment. Until the filthy producers force you to wake up at gun point. No wonder everyone hates producers.
Mike (Eisenberg) is a sweet heart of a guy who gives all stoners a good name and Jesse plays him perfectly. As a timid and well meaning Cash n Carry clerk with zero delusions of success other than getting his beautiful, kind hearted, insanely hot girlfriend to marry him.
Something we can all sympathize with, because who wouldn’t want to marry (Stewart) Phoebe. She’s kind, easy to get along with and also has zero delusions of wanting anything more than sleeping with her man and smoking a bowl.
The only problem is Apollo Ape (Mike’s comic ape) knows better than the both of them, that betrayal and violence is just around the corner. And sadly so is all the joy of watching this movie.
Mike is a sleeper, an experiment in creating a McGuyver ultra violent super solider by the CIA. So when buzz kill, yuppie in charge, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) decides Mike must die simply because Mike keeps trying to leave the small town he has been programmed NOT to leave. It’s a total Bourne Identity rip off, just add a bong.
Topher Grace has made a career of playing douche bag yuppies.
So Mike’s previous kind hearted, righteous boss Victoria takes it on herself to activate Mike. “Chariot progressive. Listen. Mandelbrot set is in motion. Echo Choir has been breached, we are fielding the ball.”
The words are supposed to push Mike back into the crazy, throat slashing, bullet throwing CIA killer, he was trained to be. Sadly for two agents messing with Mike’s car, it worked and he kills them with a spoon.
Great, only now ULTRA descends into a blood fest with some mumble core, slight of hand humor to space out the blood spurts.
In other words, you can stop watching right about there.
Mixing genres to create new ideas and vibes is cool but it’s a tricky business and possibly inevitable in todays difficult film market where it’s all been done before. If you start with a sweet comedy and start slamming in some ultra violent, blood and explosions. You could alienate the people who don’t enjoy seeing heads shot off or teeth smashed in.
It’s a thin line between balancing the funny with violence to get an enjoyable black comedy. Sadly AMERICAN ULTRA fails.
Jesse is quaint and lovable and he tries hard to thread the mumble core tween the blood and guts. But when the violence is too extreme, the shock value pushes the funny out. Way out and all you remember was wishing it hadn’t started in the first place.
AMERICAN ULTRA is a sweet, lovable first 27 minutes. Then it descends into every other action, horror movie with too many bullets, too many dead, and too many reasons why I couldn’t enjoy the end of the movie.
Even the splatter of cuteness here and there just makes you wish they had given the script another round and pushed out the gore and amped up the fun, mellow pot heads in love vibe.