Wow. I don't usually say that about a movie, much less begin a review with a one-word exclamation. But wow, Nima Nourizadeh's follow-up to Project X, American Ultra is a great stoner flick.
Let's start with the casting: Fans of Adventureland should be thrilled to see Jesse Eisenberg and Top CelebStoner Kristen Stewart back to together on the silver screen. This time they're a couple living in a small town in West Virginia. Mike (Eisenberg) works at at a convenience store and Phoebe (Stewart) hangs at home doing bong hits. Little does Mike know (or at least remember) that he once was in a CIA program that trained him to be a killer. An underling who's risen to a position of power at the CIA, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), decides that Mike's a risk and needs to eliminated. In short order, the movie transitions into a violent caper.
Like Project X, which was about an out-of-control house party, you just don't know what's coming next in American Ultra. Yates makes every effort to track down the "asset," as he refers to Mike. But he's thwarted by renegades within the bureau who disagree with his over-the-top methods.
Mike (Eisenberg) smokes joints in numerous scenes, which apparently adds to his special powers.
It's fun to watch nerdy Mike take on an army of CIA assassins one by one without the support of conventional weapons (it's amazing what he can do with a spoon and a frying pan). Phoebe's by his side all the way, even though she's been keeping a major secret from him during their five-year relationship. Throughout the movie, Mike's looking for the perfect moment to propose.
Dripping with blood, they fend off everything the government can throw at them. It turns out that after Mike was busted for LSD, he was placed in the program (modeled after the infamous MK Ultra experiments in the '50s and '60s when soldiers were fed hallucinogens). They have the power to turn him on and off. Once turned on, there's no stopping Mike and this awesome movie.
Eisenberg, all twitchy and with his trademark halted speech, is at his best in a role that's both cerebral and action-packed. He smokes joints in numerous scenes, which apparently adds to his special powers. Stewart plays the ultimate devoted girlfriend, who accepts Mike's shyness and panic attacks like a champ. She's terrific.
But the real star of this rockin' stoner film is the Iranian-born filmmaker. Project X was pretty mind-blowing and so is American Ultra. Trust me, Nourizadeh is going places. He'll probably end up directing huge budget movies soon. Also, the movie's written by Max Landis, who has a solid pedigree: His father John directed Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Trading Places. Just 30, Landis has a big career ahead of him as well.
Run - no race - out to see American Ultra today!