American Ultra

Critics Consensus

American Ultra has some interesting ideas, but like its stoned protagonist, it's too easily distracted to live up to its true potential.



Total Count: 171


Audience Score

User Ratings: 19,883
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Movie Info

American Ultra is a fast-paced action comedy about Mike (Eisenberg), a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart), is suddenly turned upside down. Unbeknownst to him, Mike is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, as his secret past comes back to haunt him, Mike is thrust into the middle of a deadly government operation and is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive. (C) Lionsgate


Jesse Eisenberg
as Mike Howell
Topher Grace
as Adrian Yates
Tony Hale
as Agent Petey Douglas
Bill Pullman
as Raymond Krueger
Connie Britton
as Victoria Lasseter
Lavell Crawford
as Big Harold
Stuart Greer
as Sheriff Watts
Ilram Choi
as Newton
Sam Malone
as Quinzin
Jim Klock
as Deputy Labutte
Wayne Pére
as Deputy Krantz
Gabe Begneaud
as Deputy Jordan
Rachel Wulff
as CNN Reporter
Lyle Brocato
as CIA Analyst
Don Yesso
as Airforce Commander
Jack Yang
as Gangster
Johnny McPhail
as Gas Station Attendant
Nick Stanner
as Asset #1
Eyad Elbitar
as Asset #2
Isaac Hughes
as Asset #4
Tim Smith
as Asset #6
Alvin Chon
as Asset #8
Teri Wyble
as Tech #1
Eric Stratemeier
as Stunt Thug #1
Eric VanArsdale
as Stunt Thug #2
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Critic Reviews for American Ultra

All Critics (171) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (73) | Rotten (98)

Audience Reviews for American Ultra

  • Aug 16, 2016
    This has all the makings of a movie that will gain a sizable cult following in spite of the fact that it didn't make a lot of money, $27 million box office on a $28 million budget. So, yea, you can't really call this film a success. I think a lot of people place a lot on box office numbers, when that has nothing to do with the actual quality of the film. Scott Pilgrim vs The World was a pretty big flop when it came out, but the people that did see it loved it, myself included. The funny thing is that a lot of people who shit on the new Ghostbusters remake, without having seen it, probably point at its failure at the box office as validation for their opinions, when those same people probably love movies that have failed at the box office but in that case it's probably that the audience just wasn't ready for that type of movie. It's funny how that works. Anyway, the point of this is that this movie already has a cult following and I can see why. In all honesty, even with its flaws, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. The idea itself might not be entirely unique, but I liked how the story itself was presented and the movie does have some pretty interesting ideas. It also helps when you have Jesse Eisenberg, who's always good. It helps because he's got an everyman quality about him, so you can relate to him, even in these types of roles where he's a stoner that finds out that he's a sleeper CIA agent. And, you won't believe it, Kristen Stewart was actually pretty solid in this movie as well. She's had good chemistry with Jesse Eisenberg dating back to Adventureland and this movie really is no different. They feel more like a real couple than Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in Twilight. And those two were actually a real couple for a number of years. The problem, to me, with Kristen Stewart is that she really has very little natural charisma. Like there's nothing that draws your attention to her, if you didn't know who she was, there's no way no one would assume she was a famous actress. And there's something dead in her eyes anyway, like she's a robot that's been programmed to act. And I really do think she's improved as an actress. You can be a competent actor and still have absolutely no charisma whatsoever. They're not mutually exclusive. Still, they have strong chemistry with each other. The movie isn't based entirely around their chemistry, it's more about Jesse's character being activated and fighting back against the other agents trying to murder him. The major problem with the film is the fact that it's very tonally inconsistent. There's some real funny moments in the movie, but you're never sure if it's more a comedy, or an action-adventure film with some comedic elements. And, usually, you can make this work, the Indiana Jones franchise is a perfect example of this, but in this movie it feels separate. Like the comedy feels completely removed from the action and the action feels completely removed from the more 'dramatic' aspects. The best of these types of movies find a way to make it all feel like it's one coherent tone, this one doesn't. Even with that, though, I found the movie enjoyable. Visually speaking it reminds me of Kick-Ass. It's just got a stylishly violent style. Some of the action also reminds me of Kick-Ass, though it's not nearly as good as that movie in terms of that. There's this really cool scene in the supermarket that's made to look like it's one continuous shot. It was well-done. As far as character-development, there is some, what with Mike dealing with the fact that all his memories have been planted in his brain and the woman he thinks is his girlfriend was actually his handler when he was being experimented on. It's not much, but at least it's something. The narrative is decent, at best, it's more the style the film puts forward that helps it more than its story. Don't really have much else to say, this is a very flawed movie indeed, but if you appreciate films like Kick-Ass, then you'd probably like this. I enjoyed this, it's not for everybody, but I'd recommend it if you have Amazon Prime.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Jul 21, 2016
    I personally adore this stoner comedy a lot. Its funny jokes and interesting storyline are very well produced and executed. I do think there are problems with this movie though that put it at its "rotten" score on RT. Its casting wasn't all that good for instance Topher Grace shouldn't have been cast as a villain just the wrong choice. Most of the action scences I felt could've and should've been filmed differently. I would like to see a ultimate cut or a re release so that they can edit the action portions of the film in order to reach a fresh score on RT. Maybe bring in the Russo brothers to help with a sequel or some reshoots. This does deserve its rotten score but I would've liked to see it score at around 56% as it was almost a fresh idea and film.
    Tyler H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 03, 2016
    There is a lot to like about American Ultra. Cool premise, great script, some downright amazing cinematography, a (mostly) likeable cast & lots of fun, blood and action. But for whatever reason, as a cohesive whole, American Ultra just couldn't quite cross that threshold in to being a "good" movie. At least not for me anyway. It walks right up to that line and teeters on the edge, and I would never be anything but happy for those who enjoyed it more than me, but I can't quite ratchet American Ultra up to a "fresh" rating.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2016
    Ah the film written by the wild and somewhat eccentric Max Landis, son of 80's director supreme, John Landis. I say this because this movie became somewhat infamous down to the fact that Max Landis had a bit of a tantrum over the fact it kinda bombed. There were Tweets and rants and moans and interviews etc...but really, what it all came down to was the simple fact that this movie was beaten at the box office by garbage such as 'Agent 47'. Is that fair? no, not at all because this movie is indeed better than said videogame shite, unfortunately Landis Jr. could not control himself too well and let rip out of sheer frustration, which is understandable I guess. But lets be brutally honest here for one moment, this is a violent action flick about people brainwashed into super agents, and it stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Topher Grace?? and people are wondering why it failed? So despite Max Landis' claims about originality, here is the plot. Mike (Eisenberg) is a bit of a stoner loser, he works at a shitty convenience store, has greasy long hair, he's very skinny, and is somehow holding down a relationship with a surprisingly cute girl in Phoebe (Stewart). Meanwhile, within the CIA, agent Lasseter (Connie Britton) is informed that the special brainwashed agents from her failed Ultra project, are to be eliminated to make way for another better project headed by Yates (Topher Grace). Unhappy about this Lasseter finds Mike, who is one of these brainwashed agents, and activates him using special trigger words. What follows is a blazing trail of blood and bullets as Mike and Phoebe must avoid getting killed by Yates stream of other, so called, better brainwashed agents. As time passes Mike obviously gets better at killing, but is it enough for him to survive and save his girlfriend? Can Lasseter do anything to help? and is Yates on the level? So the first question that springs to mind with this movie is, why exactly does the CIA want to kill off all these agents from this old project? OK they are part of a failed operation sure, but surely they could be of use in the field, they have been trained, they aren't completely useless as they find out with Mike. Apparently Mike is not allowed to leave the State in which he resides, not sure why but there you go, this is one reason given as to why he needs to be eliminated, eh? Lasseter was also originally informed by CIA bigwig Krueger (Bill Pullman) that her agents would be taken out as they are no longer required, it is explained that this was done merely out of respect and courtesy to her, but why?? Why would you call Lasseter to tell her this? surely you could guess she might not be happy with the decision considering these agents were her project. It just seemed completely bizarre that a top secret organisation like the CIA, which are apparently happy to eliminate their own agents, would tell another agent head what they are gonna do out of courtesy. This entire plot device also begs the question, why are the CIA acting like mobsters?! Since when did the all American CIA execute their own agents like some kind of evil supervillain organisation, seriously are they the CIA or Cobra? Especially at the end when Krueger dresses down both Yates and Lasseter, both of whom are restrained at the wrists, on their knees, in the middle of a field, in the pouring rain! What the hell! is this the mafia or something?? sheesh! Other aspects of this movie are also just as weird frankly, like the agents that work for Yates (apparently called 'tough guy' agents...seriously). Now these guys don't really come across as actual human beings, no they are more like soulless Terminators or Uni Sols even. Seriously at one point Yates goes to a big truck where all his agents are just sitting in there, in two perfect rows, in the pitch black, in the back of this lorry, like flippin' robots. Are they supposed to be robotic assassins or something? because they sure as hell act like it. They don't seem to get treated after sustaining injury, and they follow orders blindly without remorse or emotion. One scene where two baddie agents (one of them being Walton Goggins) attack a police station is a complete Terminator/Uni Sol rip-off in my opinion. Both agent are dressed in all black, they both carry heavy weaponry and simply mow down every cop in cold blood, no emotion, and the female agent is clearly doing her best robotic Arnie impression (Goggins character laughs maniacally, hence his name is Laugher). The main problem with this film are the two main leads played by Eisenberg and Stewart. Firstly Eisenberg is quite simply not the kickass action man type, he doesn't look it, nor does he portray it well, its just not believable even for this plot. Where as Stewart just isn't a particularly good actress and is sort of unpopular in the movie world, but she also seems miscast here. Neither really click together and don't come across as a believable couple, I just can't see why she would love Mike when he's such a loser. To top that, the twist with her character makes it even more unbelievable because she gives up her entire career for this guy, I mean this could be a workable plot but you would need actors that gel way better. The fact that we know what happens in the end also hampers this movie badly. The whole tale is basically a flashback told from a point at the end of the movie, so we know that Mike survives everything, hence there is no real tension or engagement. Secondly the tone of this film varies hugely, at one point its a dumb black comedy type affair, then its a somewhat semi serious, dirty government type affair, then its trying to be a Bourne-esque kickassery type affair, then it hints at being a rom-com with cutesy dialog, and at times it can be a bit heartfelt. The film is all over the bloody place, you never know how to feel, is this serious or not?! its like a blend of 'Kick-Ass' and (of course) 'The Bourne Identity'. The other problem is there is actually too much needless violence and blood, nothing wrong with a bit of violence and blood, but here it just feels excessive and unnecessary, it doesn't actually add anything to the action. Segway into the sucks! It literately looks like a fan-made version of 'The Bourne Identity' that's been slapped together rather amateurishly, which would be very impressive if it [b]were[/b] made by a fanboy with little money. But seriously, for a movie that's suppose to be a hot action flick, there is very little memorable action in here, its all very run of the mill stuff, and it looks cheap. So yes Mr Landis Jr. the film is the fact that its not an actual sequel or prequel or reboot of anything that has come before, but the plot isn't exactly anything new. Unfortunately the film is terribly miscast on almost all levels, and that includes a racially stereotypical role for Leguizamo as a drug dealer, and the laughably bad Pullman who sneers comically as he barks his orders at his subordinates. When the film tries to be funny, it isn't, or its not funny enough. When it tries to be serious and badass, its not really either, its just very average with bad editing. Its all quite predictable, you know the main protagonist survives from the get go, Topher Grace is just his usual snivelling annoying self, and I'm pretty sure most people won't have a clue what the films title is suppose to mean at first glance. Final summary, blend [i]Jason Bourne[/i], 'Kick-Ass', 'Super' and a hint of 'True Lies' and voila! its just a shame it isn't as good as that sounds.
    Phil H Super Reviewer

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