Review: American Ultra

"Neither Eisenberg nor Stewart have been this fun in years."

In the genre mash-up American Ultra, Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is a stoner burnout living in West Virginia with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). He knows she’s too good for him, or as he says, “We’re the perfect fucked-up couple. She’s perfect, I’m the fuck-up.” What he does know is he’s actually a CIA asset, which is why every time he tries to leave town or chase a dream he is undone by paralyzing panic attacks. When a CIA agent (Topher Grace, a single note of Peak Dick) decides to dismantle the program, its architect (Connie Britton, wonderful as usual, though the hair people should be ashamed) activates Mike and he is suddenly and handily able to fend off the guys who keep showing up to kill him. He and Phoebe go on the run as the CIA closes in. They stop in at a delightful John Leguizamo’s house—he’s a drug dealer named Rose with a blacklight rave room in his basement. Tony Hale is also on the CIA team, conflicted about his loyalties. And Bill Pullman runs the whole show. One of this season’s weirder entries, American Ultra is so good-hearted that its casual ultraviolence doesn’t play half as gory as it could, and so self-aware that the more ridiculous moments are commented upon in a way that acknowledges without excusing. Neither Eisenberg nor Stewart have been this fun in years. A surprising delight.

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