Even With Jesse Eisenberg, American Ultra is Watchable

american ultra

American Ultra

I don’t get the Jesse Eisenberg thing. The guy has as much charisma as a bowl of oatmeal. He seems perpetually nervous, and half the time it seems like he’s forgotten his lines. Yet, somehow he’s considered a “movie star.” This once again proves that the whole world is rigged and nothing is as it appears to be. In secret, the Eisenberg family must own every studio in Hollywood and every bank in the world.

So normally, I see Jesse Eisenberg’s face and I swipe left. In fact, I’d done so a couple hundred times already as American Ultra kept appearing on my feed for Amazon prime. But the user interface for prime is designed so that you can’t avoid what Amazon is pushing forever, and eventually I succumbed and hit play. I expected to watch a stupid stoner comedy like Seth Rogen would probably make. Instead, I got an extremely violent film about a CIA mole who gets activated and then goes on a brutal rampage against another top secret CIA hit squat put together by Topher Grace. The film occasionally makes a stab at comedy every now and then, but pretty much fails. But that’s OK because a guy gets killed with a hammer, and I’ll always be entertained after watching that.

Actually, as you watch this thing you realize that it’s really bizarre that this film exists at all. I mean, who casts Jesse Eisenberg in an attempt to turn him into a geeky Jason Bourne type hero? Actually, that’s not so unusual because it seems like every…single…movie…that comes out these days is a never ending sequence of martial arts scenes featuring an actor who has never been known for martial arts. The other one that comes to mind is Atomic Blonde with Carlize Theron (you know…from the J’Dore commercials?), which actually did have one faux “one take” sequence that was kind of remarkable. This whole, “instant action hero” thing began with Taken I believe as nobody thought of Liam Neeson as a “beat-em up” guy before that.

Apparently the studios were a little miffed that this film exists as well because they totally failed to market it correctly. There are actually some interesting videos out there from Red Letter Media. One is a review of the film (which they hated), and another is an interview with screenwriter Max Landis who needs to complain about what the studio did to the film. To me, Max Landis comes off as a pretty entitled dude who doesn’t want anyone to know about his secret connections to the Hollywood inside (which he can pull to get a film like American Ultra made)…but whatevs….

Anyway, as I’ve been slowly getting to, I kind of liked American Ultra. If you can get through the first few scenes of Jesse Eisenberg shuffling around extremely awkwardly, and if you can believe Kristen Stewart as a love interest even though she appears to throw up in her mouth a little bit every time she closes in to embrace him, and you make it to the scene where Eisenberg is “activated” then you’ll be entertained the rest of the way. Speaking of Stewart, she’s another swipe left actress. Her one trick is to act like she’s extremely bored and to look like she would rather be anywhere on earth besides filming a movie in every scene. Fine lady, you want to be somewhere else, then go somewhere else, nobody is begging you to make films. It’s kind of comical that the montage intercourse sequence that presumably illustrates how close she is with Eisenberg doesn’t seem to feature Eisenberg. Apparently they couldn’t get any convincing simulated orgasms on film while Stewart kept throwing up into her mouth.

But yeah, I liked this, and it was because of the ultra violent action sequences! Seriously, they go over the top and probably shouldn’t have been featured in this or any movie, which made it seem like you were watching something that somehow got through the endless, infinite screen of censors and critics. There’s a sequence where Eisenberg goes through a whole department store, department by department, and conveniently grabs things off the rack to kill people with. He slams a guys head along a whole row of lightbulbs, and then finishes off the moment when he stumbles into the “hardware” section and picks up the above mentioned hammer.

I mentioned Topher Grace is in this, and he’s his annoying old self, but at least they didn’t get General Hux to play that part. Connie Britton was good, I’d watch another movie with her in it.

So, if it’s late at night and you’ve had six rum and root beers (don’t laugh, they’re awesome), and you’re looking for something on Amazon Prime to keep you entertained until you pass out, then don’t be afraid of American Ultra. I wish there were more movies like this…but ones that featured better actors and screenplay writers. It’s not an enduring classic, but it probably made a lot of people very angry and that’s mainly what I look for in a film.

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