‘American Ultra’ is a new strain of action-comedy

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American Ultra (2015)

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh

For a decade or more, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart have bounced around from Oscar-winning films to terrible excuses for cinema and back again. But with the new stoner comedy “American Ultra,” it seems they’ve finally found their neurotic little niche.

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When the CIA implemented a new program that altered the minds of frequent juvenile offenders in an attempt to make them efficient killers, it only worked on one man. Small-town convenience store clerk and stoner Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) hasn’t been activated yet, and any memories of his training have been erased. He lives a static existence with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) in West Virginia. But when the Ultra program’s new director (Topher Grace) decides to eliminate the potentially dangerous asset before he realizes his capabilities, the program’s former director (Connie Britton) does all she can to save him. After all, Howell doesn’t even know the dangerous killer inside him…but he will.

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“American Ultra” has a weird factor that would quickly ruin a lesser movie. This time, it turns the stoner flick into a potential cult classic. The script is a potent blend of outrageously comedic and philosophical af. It’s also one of the most exciting action plots of the summer. Tarantino action, Evan Goldberg comedy, and an adorably realistic romance—“American Ultra” has it all. But it’s the leads that unlock the movie’s potential. Eisenberg epitomizes chillness as the pot-head turned CIA asset. He’s deadpan hilarious, but he can also kick major butt and make it look easy. Since her days starring in the “Twilight” saga, Kristen Stewart has grown into quite an asset in her own right. In her role in “Still Alice,” for one, Stewart showed incredible dramatic potential. Here, she’s something quite different. Her chill, dirty hippie look has always led her to this role. As Bella Swan, it was hard to take Stewart seriously. In “American Ultra,” nothing ever needs to be taken too seriously. That’s a good thing. For a casual end-of-summer escape, nothing else is quite as effective.

“American Ultra” is high-intensity, high-octane, and also just high. It’s a trippy and entertaining tinder box of excitement.

7/10

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