We first heard of director Nima Nourizadeh when we saw the hilarious, found-footage pukefest that was “Project X”. He’s back now with American Ultra, an over-the-top action-comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.
Eisenberg stars as Mike Howell, a long-haired slightly neurotic stoner who works the night shift in a convenience store in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Right now the biggest thing in his life is proposing to his girlfriend. If only he could find the right moment. That girlfriend is the infinitely patient Phoebe (Stewart), a bail bondsman (bondswoman?) with whom Mike wants to share the rest of his life even if he feels he isn’t worthy of her.
Then one night at work, a woman comes in the store and says something that makes no sense. But whaddya know, all of a sudden Mike manages to take out two guys who have come to kill him with nothing but a spoon. Turns out Mike is actually a highly-trained sleeper agent from an abandoned government program, and the strange woman (Connie Britton) is a CIA agent who has gone rogue and ‘activated’ Mike in hopes of keeping him alive. Think The Bourne Identity meets Pineapple Express.
From there on the action sequences keep on coming, leading up to a big finale that takes place in a discount superstore. Along the way, we run into a whole slew of supporting players that fail to contribute much of anything. There’s John Leguizamo as Mike’s dealer, Topher Grace as Britton’s supervisor and Bill Pullman as the evil big boss among others. All good actors, but you wouldn’t know it seeing them here.
I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t like American Ultra more than I did. The story is fun enough, yet somehow it blew right over me. That might be due to the fact that neither Nourizadeh or writer Max Landis (Chronicle) ever really decide whether they want American Ultra to be a comedy or an action flick. Maybe it becomes better if you watch this baked out of your mind, but I doubt it.