Back in the Times: 'American Ultra' Review
I have a review of “American Ultra” in the Seattle Times today. Excerpt:
It's “Bourne Identity” meets “Pineapple Express.” Small-town stoner is in reality, and unbeknown to himself, a top CIA assassin. ...
Mike Lowell (Jesse Eisenberg) is the last remnant of a CIA program that turned three-time offenders into assassins, but which is now part of an internecine struggle between its creator, Victoria (Connie Britton), and middle-management douchebag Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), who has his own program, code-named “Tough Guy,” that turns psychopaths into assassins.
When threatened, Mike's pupils dilate and his inner assassin takes over; then he reverts back to vulnerable slacker. He kills two people with a spoon, for example, then needs a hug from his girlfriend. “I have a lot of anxiety about this,” he says, surveying the damage.
That's the sweet spot of the movie, and you do feel for Eisenberg, who's the best thing here. Kristen Stewart is also good. Most everyone else overacts, particularly Topher Grace and John Leguizamo, and not to comedic effect.
It made me think of what worked with the original 1978 “Superman” starring Christopher Reeve. Reeve played it straight, everyone else was a little over-the-top. The difference is that in “Supes” everyone else (Hackman, Perrine, Beatty) was funny and Reeve wasn't (he was heroic). Here, it's still Eisenberg who makes us laugh. The others don't.
Ultimately a missed opportunity.