Granger on Movies: ‘American Ultra’
Published 4:08 pm, Friday, August 21, 2015
This deranged action comedy has two things going for it: Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and Kristen Stewart (“The Twilight Saga”). They’ll probably account for more box-office clout that this dreadful stoner dirge deserves.
As it opens, bruised and battered Mike Howell (Eisenberg) is in jail. Why? Flashbacks reveal he’s a clerk at a Cash & Carry who draws a graphic novel called Apollo Ape when he’s not busy behind the register.
A laidback pothead, he lives with his supportive girlfriend, slovenly Phoebe Larson (Stewart), who works for a bail bondsman.
Mike bought an engagement ring and planned to take Phoebe to Hawaii to propose marriage, but at the airport, he suffered another one of his crippling, yet inexplicable anxiety attacks.
Back in their rural West Virginia bungalow, slacker Mike gets “activated,” meaning he suddenly becomes a super-soldier, killing two menacing hitmen with a spoon, making him the target of a CIA manhunt led by an uptight government agent, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), who is determined to eliminate him.
“What if I’m a robot?” he wonders.
Borrowing from “Pineapple Express,” as well as the Jason Bourne concept, it profiles a seemingly ordinary guy who discovers he’s covert sleeper agent, caught in a government conspiracy. But I’m afraid I’m making it sound more interesting than it really is, since getting from point A to point B is so tedious that I dozed off.
Sluggishly scripted by Max Landis (“Chronicle”) and repetitively directed by Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X”), it re-teams Eisenberg with Stewart, hoping to re-ignite some of their “Adventureland” (2009) sizzle.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “American Ultra” is an ultra-violent, blood-splattered 3. Dopey in more ways than one, it’s amazingly awful.