Straight off the top Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg have great chemistry. Never would have predicted it, but it is true. Unfortunately, that is one of the few pluses the Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) directed and Max Landis (Chronicle) penned action comedy film has going for it. It might be a case of Nourizadeh and Landis trying to be too smart for their own good in what I think was a broad (very) attempt at a farce of action films…or was it just a stoner comedy?
Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network, Zombieland) is pretty much a stoner and a loser. He also suffers from panic attacks severe enough that he is not able to ever leave the small town he lives in with his girlfriend, Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart – Twilight, Still Alice). Not even to take a trip to Hawaii where he plans on proposing to her. So they seem stuck in a dull small town life where he works as a small grocery store and she dreams of something more.
That is all going to change when a woman (Connie Britton – from television’s Nashville) walks into Mike’s store one night and begins saying something over and over to him that makes no sense. Frustrated at him not understanding what she is trying to say to him she leaves and Mike is perplexed. He is still kinda thinking about it when he goes outside to eat the ramen soup that she left on the counter only to find two guys doing something to his car. Mike tells them to stop and they do but only to attack him. Not only does our helpless and hopeless stoner slacker defend himself he ends up shooting one with his own gun and killing the other with his soup spoon. What happened there?
Some of the questions are answered when we find out that the woman who spoke to Mike moments before is actually CIA Agent Victoria Lasseter and she is trying to foil her superior’s, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace – from television’s That 70s Show), attempt to kill all the assets from the Ultra Program. This program took a bunch of normal and usually mentally unstable people to train then to be superior agents. Incredibly Mike Powell is an Ultra and Adrian wants him eliminated. Victoria is defying his orders in trying to save Mike.
I have to say that I have a lot of problem with Jesse Eisenberg. Something about his acting I really don’t get. I struggle to like any film he is in as a result. His brand of strangeness is not something I can grasp a hold of. Plus he usually plays such unlikable characters that it is hard to…well…like him. A big strike against this film.
Surprisingly there are plenty of witty and even poignant moments buried deep within the film. They creep up on you amidst all the blood, guts and violence that are usually occurring. The touching and very real/relatable moments happen between Mike and Phoebe. This is where the chemistry really hits home. It is so good – their chemistry – that for the last thirty minutes of the film when Mike and Phoebe are apart is when the film really loses its interest. Their love story is one you just want to root for. Without Eisenberg and Stewart being together onscreen there is really no raison d’être.
Plenty of action, fights and blood in this one. Though it is verging on graphic novel violence and blood because it is so over the top most of the time. The gunplay and punches are really noisy and an assault on your senses. Got to be so much that I don’t know if they were poking fun at the genre or had just lost all sense of control. Or they were just trying to cover up the fact that there was very little of a story here?
- “Activating American Ultra” Documentary
- “Assassinating on a Budget” Featurette
- Gag Reel
- Audio Commentary with Director Nima Nourizadeh