American Ultra

AMERICAN ULTRA,  US, 2015. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton, Topher Grace, Bill Pullman, Walter Goggins, Tony Hale, John Leguizamo. Directed by Nima Nourizadeh. 96 minutes.  Rated MA (Strong violence, drug use, coarse language.

Somebody in Hollywood may have made a bet that it would be impossible to write a screenplay for Jesse Eisenberg (always on edge and nerdy), when he would play an action hero. This could be the result of the bet - and everyone has their cake as well as eating it because Jesse Eisenberg plays a slacker-stoner as well as an action hero, all in one character!

Another famous use of the word ultra is by droog, Alex, the clockwork thug of A Clockwork Orange, indulging in a little bit of the “ultra-violence”. We may not think that this would be true of this film in the first part, but, once Eisenberg’s character, Mike, is seen like one of the killers elite, it is a bit full-on - amazing what he can do with a simple spoon as well as the technique of holding up a frying pan to deflect a bullet and its ricocheting into the attacker!

Michael lives in a small town in West Virginia, enjoys getting high, works at a store with specials on Monday (and is taking out on mon and putting intues for Tuesday). He lives with his stoner girlfriend, Phoebe, who works in a bail bond office, Phoebe, Kristin Stewart.

Then we are introduced to Langley, spy satellites, agents, program of mind altering and character ordering, placing sleepers in a community, taking mentally ill characters and transforming them into “assets”. When agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) comes to town to see Mike, so does her rival, Topher Grace, and his squad of agents and assets.

Poor Mike doesn’t know what is going on, finds he has no memories of his past, and wonders whether he is a robot. Even when the armed agents attack and Mike dispatches them, he is still bewildered, is taken to prison, handcuffed, in a cell with Phoebe only to discover that the whole town is sealed off and everyone is after him.

So, what begins as a slacker comedy, with poor Mike subject to panic attacks, even about getting on a plane to go to Hawaii with Phoebe, becomes a high-powered action show, to borrow a phrase from another series, “Kick-ass”.

Absurd and weird are two words that do come to mind as we watch all these goings on and the ultimately triumphant Mike and Phoebe, his kneeling to propose to her in the middle of all the chaos…

Mike also indulges in creating a graphic comic himself, the Astronaut Monkey (who appears in great detail during the final credits). So, what we have is a kind of pleasant backwoods story turning into a graphic novel and indulging in plenty of the conspiracy theories and activities.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Released 10th September 2015.


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