lake britton

Enough with the reluctant stoner action hero, Jesse

American Ultra


By Jason Wiese

American Ultra, a new comedy starring Academy Award-nominee Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, has been heavily advertised as a stoner-action-comedy in the style of Pineapple Express. However, other than the fact that Eisenberg’s character is an avid marijuana user, the only other thing that would make this is a stoner movie is that that plot sounds like an idea that came fresh off of a bong hit: “What if Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s character in Total Recall was a stoner?” This idea goes up in smoke pretty quickly.

Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, a convenience store clerk with nothing else to live for but his loving girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart). The couple does have an apparent chemistry that carries the film’s promising first act before the second act reveals, in a Jason Bourne-inspired scene, the secret behind Mike’s past. Mike has had his memories of being a CIA assassin wiped clean years earlier, until the agent formerly in charge of the program that trained him (Connie Britton) goes rogue and “reactivates” his abilities in attempt to protect him from an inexplicably malicious agent (Topher Grace) who targets him for extermination. Believe it or not, that is about the moment when the film starts to become less interesting.

The problem with American Ultra, essentially, is that it is hopelessly unoriginal. We have already seen enough amnesiac assassins, antagonists who are ridiculously evil for no apparent reason and stoner Jesse Eisenbergs reluctantly put in danger (i.e. 30 Minutes or Less). This is also very surprising, considering that the screenplay comes from Max Landis, writer of 2012’s highly original found footage drama Chronicle. Of course, the bigger issue is the “misdirection” by Nima Nourizadeh. American Ultra is the director’s follow-up from his 2012 debut, Project X, a plotless and boring found footage film. I suppose he and Landis thought that expanding their horizons on the same project would be a fun idea.

The cast is a collage of typecast roles. I already mentioned that Eisenberg has played a stoner action hero before. Grace is portraying his incomprehensibly evil CIA agent as if Eric Forman, his character on the hit sitcom That ‘70s Show, grew up to be a bigger jerk than his cantankerous father, Red. Tony Hale plays a fellow agent who is wrestling with his own moral compass and desire to be taken seriously, which is a role he cannot seem to escape. Stewart is, well, playing a better Bella than she did in Twilight.

To be fair, the movie does play around with a handful of ideas that I found to be funny and intriguing, such as Mike’s creation of a cartoon starring an astronaut primate named “Apollo Ape,” but it quickly became infuriating to see the good highlights show up so rarely in the mix of such misguided schlock. It is such a shame that the entire movie could not have been as equally fun. American Ultra fails to be an exciting action film, a heartwarming romantic comedy or even a good stoner movie.

Posted to Newstime Friday, Aug. 21, 2015

While camping, we found the bridge that was used in the movie Stand By Me from the scene where they had to outrun the locomotive and Vern was crawling on the tracks like an idiot. I love this movie so much and am so happy we decided to hop the fence and walk across it; as questionable and scary as it was. The tracks have since been removed and the bridge is slated to be demolished soon #amazingfind! #lakebritton #standbyme #1986 (at Lake Britton)