American Ultra (2015)

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in American Ultra (2015)

Here are the things to like about American Ultra:

Kristen Stewart’s performance as a put-upon girlfriend. She’s fantastic, as always.

The chemistry between Stewart and on-screen boyfriend Jesse Eisenberg, playing a kind of Cheech-and-Bourne stoner/super-soldier mashup.

Some imaginative use of neon/black light colours.

…and that’s it, sadly.

American Ultra could have been a funny, energetic stoner-action-comedy with the right director behind the camera; think Pineapple Express. There’re good jokes here, and a great cast. But instead Nima Nourizadeh – of Project X ‘fame’ – has produced something hollow and tiresome and nasty that miscasts Eisenberg (who’s not suited to action and is so unconvincing as a stoner they used CGI weedsmoke), wastes Walton Goggins as a psychotic sidekick and, most egregiously, never seems to understand that the prerogative here is to be funny, to have fun.

Instead, American Ultra is inexplicably brutal, luxuriating in shattered teeth and ugly bruises when it should simple be having a good time. Perhaps this film – whose moral framework appears to explicitly support psychotic super soldier programs provided they make ‘good solders’ – is simply the end point on America’s path from weed as an emblem of counter-culture to yet another commercial product. Profit wins and we lose.

2 stars

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