‘American Ultra’ isn’t a particularly memorable film. It’s more interesting in an ‘I’m disgusted, but can’t look away!’ fashion. There aren’t a lot of laughs or even snickers throughout the movie, but at least the filmmakers don’t beat the audience over the head with when they should laugh. There are some decent and graphically violent action scenes, but ‘Spy’ did those type of scenes much better. Jesse Eisenberg does an ok job playing the sleeper agent Mike Howell, who has been programmed with a number of phobias so he won’t leave his quiet new life. For some reason, people like to call him the ‘poor man’s Michael Cera.’ While Eisenberg is nowhere near the level of a lot of actors who have been cast as Marvel super heroes, he has a lot more versatility than Cera.
Kristen Stewart probably gave her best performance since ‘Panic Room’ in this film. She doesn’t have any of the usual emotionless, monotone mumbling she displayed in ‘Still Alice’ or ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ (no, the fact that she won the French equivalent of the Oscar doesn’t make that performance impressive). In ‘American Ultra’ Miss Stewart really puts a lot of life into her performance. Her character genuinely smiles and cries. She genuinely seems to have some intelligence in this film. Yours truly certainly never thought there would be a film where she rooted for Kristen Stewart over Topher Grace, but here it is. Heck, she even provides the film with one of the few chuckles with her final line. It’s not yet time for Marvel Studios to consider for Carol Danvers, but she has made a huge step in the right direction with this performance. She could have a great career if she keeps it up. Another bright spot in the film was Tony Hale as a CIA agent caught in the middle of the whole conflict. His character was certainly one of the more memorable characters. He has some great moments of trying to do the right thing in the face of danger.
‘American Ultra’ really isn’t good or bad. It’s perfectly watchable. It would be more worth seeing on discount days or when it gets moved to discount theaters. It may even be worth a rental or a Netflix viewing when it comes out in that format. The actual rating is 2 ½ stars, but this site doesn’t allow. Three stars is what will be clicked because there are enough positives in the film and they slightly out-weigh negatives that aren’t really negatives, they simply aren’t strengths. ‘American Ultra opened nationwide August 21.