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‘American Ultra’ blows smoke

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MOVIE REVIEW: Stoner spy flick leaves viewers disappointed with lackluster plot devices

Posted: August 26, 2015 | Written by: Treva Flores

Dazed and Confused: After nearly being murdered by a pair of psychopaths in a police station, Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) and Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart) take a moment to try to figure out what they just witnessed. Before they can wrap their minds around the situation more action begins to unfold.
ALan Markfield | Lionsgate Films

Blunts aren’t the only thing Jesse Eisenberg was hitting as he starred in “American Ultra.”

The film was released in theaters Aug. 21 as an action movie with the most unlikely protagonists to lead this adventure for truth and identity.

Local stoner and unbenounced to him dormant CIA operative Mike Howell (Eisenberg) spent most of his time working, drawing comics and fantasizing about the perfect moment to propose to his girlfriend Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart) until his entire world fell apart.

Random events begin to unfold beginning with CIA agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) walking into Mike’s work one evening and saying an activation code which makes no sense to the stoner.

Soon after the failed attempt at activation, two men try to murder Mike and the viewer discovers he is a CIA trained killing machine.

The movie then quickly turned into an epic battle to prevent Mike from being killed.

The romance between Eisenberg and Stewart’s characters felt satisfying considering that the two are not the typical hero types worth looking up to.

The duo had a sweet chemistry as Howell struggled to figure out how to propose even though attempt after attempt ended up in failure.

As the movie progressed it was clear that “American Ultra” wasn’t another “Pineapple Express” which many had hoped it would be.

Although there were a few good jokes, the movie overall felt as if there was hardly any humor.

Large amounts of blood and gore were included along with several cringe-worthy moments while Mike demonstrated his newly rediscovered skills.

The action scenes were satisfying due to Mike not being the most courageous looking character.

The biggest issue “American Ultra” had was poor plot writing with loopholes that left open-ended questions for viewers.

For example, Phoebe was extremely upset with Mike when he tried to take her on vacation, but got stuck at the airport with an upset stomach that occurred every time he tried to leave town.

It is later revealed that Phoebe worked for the CIA as his handler, but developed feelings for Mike, which lead to her staying with him.

With all that in mind: Why would Phoebe be overly upset if she knew Mike’s situation and the fact that he wasn’t allowed to leave town?

Another example would be the fact that Mike was part of an experiment where the CIA trained criminals with minor offenses to be weapons.

However, a majority of the people who participated in the experiment did not work out which is why they were put into a state of dormancy.

Throughout the film there was hardly any significant character development or answers as to why the CIA was trying to destroy such a deadly person that they had created.

Later in the film, the viewer discovers that CIA agent Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) has been training mental hospital patients to be weapons to try to kill Mike.

Although agent Yates ranked high in the CIA, attempts to terminate Mike’s program using mental patients should have been noticed by higher ups.

“American Ultra” was full of scenes that looked good, but didn’t add anything new or revealing to the story.

Most of the movie felt unexplained, but it was entertaining enough to sit through the entire 96-minute film without question.

Film critics remain disappointed in “American Ultra.”

As of Aug. 22 it maintains a 47 percent on Rotten Tomatoes due to its unfulfilled potential.

While the plot itself was lacking in real content, Eisenberg and Stewart were able to remain captivating leaving the film only half-baked.

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