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American Ultra review

I come from a family line that is great at recognising familiar faces, but utterly useless at putting those faces into any context. Even worse – being diabolical at actually remembering/applying names to the faces. I can watch a TV show, trailer or film and there will be a moment when I must do an involuntary spasm of vague recognition. Mrs L is very long-suffering, and also a great observer of these moments. She often tells me who it is that I think I have recognised and why, in fact, I am wrong in my guess. As of yet, this dynamic has not resulted in my death via sharp/blunt object. I imagine that most couples have similar foibles.

American Ultra is a story about a couple and how, in pursuit of coupledom, they have developed their own relationship dynamic. It is also a damn good journey through the machinations of a, possibly rogue, CIA super-soldier programme – with many drug-taking references and “strong graphic violence”.

There is something deeply comic-book about American Ultra. Writer, Max Landis and director Nima Nourizadeh have taken a fairly simplistic story and given it a indie-pulp feel that is nudgingly referenced by hero, Mike Howell (Eisenberg)’s “Apollo Ape” cartoon.  Eisenberg does the slacker/stoner man-hard-done-by role convincingly and reminds me of Dante from Kevin Smith’s original Clerks (only slightly less of a pri*k) with a hint of the post-millennial under-dog feeling of Scott Pilgrim vs The World thrown in for good measure.

I have a degree of difficulty with Kristen Stewart as an actress. In truth I think that she must work quite hard at honing the character of “mildy-bored-teenager,” but she has suffered from perpetual casting in exactly this role. I am sure that 90% of my dislike comes from the truly horrific Twilight saga, as she was much more bearable in On the Road. The character development in American Ultra at least goes to show a slightly less “dead-eyed” role than previously and there is a nodding humour in her playing the stoner-resigned-girlfriend in act 1. I may yet warm to her.

American Ultra is a funny film in a similar way to Kick-Ass‘ black humour, and will get the inevitable comparisons for precisely this reason. They main characters actually make a nice counter-balance of wannabe failing hero and don’t wannabe killing machine.

The main reason that I woke up during the trailer for American Ultra and stuck it on the watch-list was the appearance of John Leguizamo. He is that face that I went <?> about. There is a warm sense of this may be okay when he appears. He does get one of the best set up lines in the whole film.

Add to this, a supremely obnoxious, Topher Grace, in a role that is even less likeable than Spider-Man 3‘s Eddie Brock and there is a half decent cast to play with. Some tight dialogue and a languid stoned approach to some quite graphic violence and you get a very diverting 90 odd minutes. This is one of those late summer sleeper hits that you should probably see in big rather than curse when you Netflix it later…

Mrs L enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. The weird 80 year old bloke sat in front of us who brought his own pop and a bag of sandwiches seemed to enjoy it too. You probably will too. There is one scene that Ian Crawford (SpoonSense) may not approve of, but it does warn of graphic violence from the outset…


Big box of illegal fireworks and a box of cereal.


John has a massive dislike of the Twilight saga. He is rubbish at remembering faces and is lucky that his wife only rolls her eyes and doesn’t hit him when he thinks that someone is familiar…

Got an opinion?