Movie review: Jesse Eisenberg is more Zuckerberg than Bourne in American Ultra | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, August 21, 2015

Movie review: Jesse Eisenberg is more Zuckerberg than Bourne in American Ultra

Posted by Google on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:27 AM

click to enlarge Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in American Ultra - PHOTO BY ALAN MARKFIELD
  • photo by Alan Markfield
  • Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in American Ultra
American Ultra
★★
Now playing

American Ultra tries to be a slacker romance, a dark comedy and an ultra-violent action thriller, but inelegant tonal shifts and slapdash production keep it from ably accomplishing any genre.

Doing his time in the dog days of this summer movie season, Jesse Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, an unmotivated pothead living in frustrated obscurity in a fictional West Virginia podunk called Liman. Mike’s live-in girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), wants him to move away, but he suffers from a psychological aversion to leaving town. So he toils at the local five and dime and spends his copious free time smoking weed and doodling violent comics about a NASA test monkey named Apollo Ape.

Unbeknownst to Mike, his drawings are repressed expressions of his true identity as a lethal sleeper agent that smug CIA suit Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) wants to … recruit, restart, kill, capture? But before the black helicopters descend on Liman, Mike’s former CIA controller (Connie Britton) arrives to reactivate his dormant deadly demeanor in order to save himself and Phoebe, who is also more than she seems.

Mike is soon dispatching truckloads of black ops assassins, most of them marionettes like him, including Laugher (Walter Goggins), who improbably transforms from psychotic killer to sympathetic figure. Locals such as Mike’s pusher, Rose (John Leguizamo), get caught in the crossfire. As the innocent body count rises, the question becomes whether there are any actual good guys in this shambles.

The chemistry between Eisenberg and Stewart, reuniting after their 2009 rom-com Adventureland, is American Ultra’s most genuine aspect. But Eisenberg’s nerdy, neurotic nebbish is more Mark Zuckerberg than Jason Bourne, and we never buy his transformation into a stone-cold stoner. Stewart acquits herself so well you wish you’d seen a story about Phoebe as the fallow female assassin, if that plotline weren't already overdone, too (La Femme Nikita, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Salt, etc.).

American Ultra aims for an amalgam of Pineapple Express and The Bourne Identity—an outrageous mix of stylized action and broad, bloody humor. But the final result from director Nima Nourizadeh feels ill-fitting and awkwardly assembled, like a graphic novel adaptation that never quite leaps off the page.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

Here's a shout-out to the dancers and musicians of The Bipeds who are not mentioned by name in this article. …

by The Bipeds on Dance Review: The Many Moving Parts of The Bipeds' 54 Strange Words Don't Always Perfectly Mesh. But When They Do, It's Spectacular. (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

Here's a shout-out to the dancers and musicians of The Bipeds who are not mentioned by name in this article. …

by The Bipeds on Dance Review: The Many Moving Parts of The Bipeds' 54 Strange Words Don't Always Perfectly Mesh. But When They Do, It's Spectacular. (Arts)

You probably want to refrain from using ableist language.

by vidvis on ADF Review: Pilobolus's Crowd-Pleasing Dance Is Apolitical. Unfortunately, the World It Inhabits Is Not. (Arts)

I love stories like this.

by JoeJoey on A Villain Burglarized All Three Ultimate Comics Stores Last Night (Arts)

Mr. Woods must have seen a very different production than the one I saw or perhaps he was having an …

by Amy Ginsburg on Theater Review: Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Songs Can't Quite Shine Through a Patchy Production of Spring Awakening (Arts)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation