By Don Simpson | August 22, 2015
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Writer: Max Landis
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale, Stuart Greer, Michael Papajohn, Monique Ganderton, Nash Edgerton
Stoner comedies are not for everyone, especially since a vast majority of them seem to be targeted to the lowest common denominator, because that is what stoners are…right? Well, despite what Hollywood has taught us over the years, not everyone who smokes marijuana is dimwitted. Some pot smokers are, in fact, very intelligent and successful people. And while Nima Nourizadeh’s American Ultra might not totally extinguish the classic stoner stereotype, it does slyly suggest that some members of this demographic might not be the listless dimwits that they appear to be.
Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) and Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) are the film’s token (toking) stoners living in bumblefuck middle America. Quintessential slackers, they appear to have no career aspirations. They are destined to go nowhere because Mike cannot leave the town’s limits without vomiting profusely (yet Mike confoundingly still tries to take Phoebe away to Hawaii in the hopes of proposing to her).
Phoebe and Mike’s mundane lives are turned upside-down when FBI assassins appear in their small town. Things get pretty dazed and confused from there, as American Ultra ventures way more than just one toke over the line. An over-the-top parody of the amnesiac spy thriller genre, Nourizadeh’s film insists that you leave logic and reality behind — it would be a lot cooler if you did [partake in Phoebe and Mike’s drug of choice]. So, sit back, relax, be sure to inhale, and enjoy this wild and crazy ride.
American Ultra is pretty cleverly written by Max Landis, but Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg’s performances are what really make this film work. Either Stewart has finally found her calling as a stoner or Eisenberg brings out the best in her. Sure, Stewart’s performance in Clouds of Sils Maria is good and all, but the hazy silliness of American Ultra really suits her well.