AMERICAN ULTRA Review: Not Your Basic Stoner Movie

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American Ultra ReviewPreviously, I’d found that watching a “stoner” movie is a lot like watching people smoke pot. The ones actually partaking are having a great time, and the rest of us feel left out, bored and annoyed without understanding what’s so funny, intriguing and/or profound. And never having inhaled myself, I especially don’t get the entertainment value. So my expectations were low for American Ultra. Perhaps that’s why I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Oh sure, it started out true to form–two outstanding young actors, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, playing two slackers — wasted both literally and figuratively. Eisenberg’s character Mike works in a convenience store when he’s cognizant, and is especially pathetic. He can’t believe that a great girl like Stewart’s Phoebe is in love with him, and neither can we, until the government gets involved and turns up the volume in the film. Gradually we discover that Mike is a sleeper agent on the verge of waking up, with all hell breaking lose around him. This is not one of those films where the hero and heroin suffer beatings, gunshots, knife wounds, explosions, etc. with hardly a scratch. These two look like they’ve been through a meat grinder, and I appreciate them for being willing to go there.

Okay, so the plot ain’t much, nor does it completely make sense, but it is fun to watch supporting actors like Connie Britton, Tofer Grace, Tony Hale, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman work their craft. Commercial director Nima Nourizadeh, whose only other big screen credit so far is the little known Project X, does an adequate, if not admirable job.

And yet…there is something about American Ultra that leads me to believe it’s going to become a cult classic among a certain young crowd. I can just see millions of Millennials quoting some of the Eisenberg lines. The dialogue is clever at times and “of the generation.” I understand that to say that American Ultra is not as bad as I thought it would be is not exactly a ringing endorsement. But at least it wan’t too bad. And sometimes that’s enough.

Rated R

1 Hour 39 Minutes

Get times and tickets at Fandango.com

AMERICAN ULTRA Review: Not Your Basic Stoner Movie

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

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