First off, damn is it good to see Jesse Eisenberg on the silver screen again. It's been a while. For those who don't know, Eisenberg is one of my favorite actors in the business. His first major performance with Kristen Stewart, 2009's Adventureland, is one of the most underrated films of the 2000s in my opinion. The film is a cult classic already, and raised the bar for me as I waited for Stewart and Eisenberg to hit the screen again here in American Ultra. Which made it that much more painful when I watched the very short 95 minute film and discovered it's......a mess. Just a mess. DAMN. JUST SAYING THAT MAKES ME SAD. I wanted to like this film so much, but there are just too many flaws here to make this film truly enjoyable. So, let's jump into it, shall we?
First off, I want to be happy. Let's talk about what this film does right. Eisenberg and Stewart. They are, once again, amazing. Not only is their chemistry undeniable, but they are both phenomenal at what they do. For you Kristen Stewart haters: stop. Just hush up. If you still think Stewart is a bad actress because she did Twilight, you haven't been paying attention to what she's done since. She more than holds her own here, even though her character is SO POORLY WRITTEN....nope. Deep breath. Keeping it positive. Ok. Of course Jesse Eisenberg is once again great. We all knew that he would be. But not only that, there's some decent cinematography here too. The fight scenes are shot well enough, (well enough to be mentioned at least) and there are a few good jokes too. However, this film is ultimately held up by Eisenberg and Stewart. If you're like me and really like Adventureland because of these two, this film is definitely worth watching. Just be prepared for almost everything else to be disappointing. Oh! John Leguizamo is fun as hell too. There's that. But then there's everything else.
Alright. Let's try to get through this in one piece. So! The negatives. The big one is the story. This entire story is ridiculous. Look. I'll forgive a comedy with a bad story when it's funny. But that's the other problem! This film is, well, not funny. Why? It is SO mean-spirited! The best punchline of this film is hey! Let's insult everyone and hide behind the veil of comedy! NO. That isn't funny. That's just mean. Let's talk about Kristen Stewart's character. There's a certain twist that sets her character up to be a female badass character in the second half of the film, but does the film go that route? No. Female power character? COURSE NOT. Just make her a damsel in distress! Shame on you, Nima Nourizadeh and Max Landis! There was an awesome opportunity that was completely wasted, and this certainly torpedoes the overall film. As a result, Stewart's character is sooooo poorly written it's insulting. A huge opportunity missed. Let's talk about the set design. It sucks. That's why I want to talk about it. This set design is so.....lazy! The CIA HQ is the most bland building I have ever seen here, and there's only 5 people who work there according to this film. Oh, and the head of the CIA runs the agency like a drug cartel. That's how it works, right? If you can't tell, I think the CIA in this film is so horribly written that it's almost a joke in and of itself. But not in a good way.
In short, there was potential for this film. Before the entire CIA adventure, I was really into this film. When it was essentially just Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart enjoying themselves, I was loving it. But then Topher Grace came in and ruined everything. There just had to be a story here. You know, I would be totally ok with watching Eisenberg and Stewart going about their daily routine for 90 minutes. Actually, that sounds amazing. You hear that, Hollywood? All you need is a house somewhere in LA, a movie backlot, and a bunch of extras. And suckers, like me, would go see it. And probably love it. But not here. Not this one. Better luck next time, guys.
The Critique: While Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart keep this film from being a complete disaster, American Ultra is a bloody mess.
The Recommendation: While most should stay away, if you liked Adventureland go see Ultra in theaters just to tell Hollywood you want more films with Eisenberg and Stewart together. Because sooner or later we have to get a good film that features these two great stars. Right?
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
Yes I know my caption said painfully average and my verdict is below average. Shush.