American Ultra (2015)
Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman. Directed by Nima Nourizadeh.
Mike is a stoner convenience store clerk in a small Virginia town, where he lives with his girlfriend Phoebe. When he’s not stoned, he’s kind of a mess, ridden with anxiety and subject to panic attacks. One very late night, he catches two guys messing with his car, and when he confronts them, they move to attack him. Mike uses a spoon he’s carrying and a cup of instant ramen, combined with reflexes he doesn’t know he has, to kill both attackers in horribly violent ways. Soon, he is the target of a series of psycho killers and doesn’t know why, but he seems to be their equal in assassination skills, much to his own surprise.
Jesse Eisenberg is always an interesting actor, and pairing him as Mike with Kristen Stewart as Phoebe might not seem like natural casting choice (although they starred together in Adventureland, a film I liked very much), but it works pretty well, and Stewart is probably the best I’ve seen her. Topher Grace and Connie Britton play characters whose roles I won’t give away, but they’ve got something to do with the situation Mike and Phoebe find themselves in, and they’re kind of a comically serious couple of rivals. American Ultra works if you sit back and let it have its way with you, not overthinking the plot or the jokes. If you appreciate the creative stunts of a good Jackie Chan film, you might find a lot to like in the action sequences here, ‘though their very violent nature and execution cause them to lack the charm and acrobatic silliness of Chan’s best work.