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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Movie Review- American Ultra

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart put their bongs down to kick some ass in American Ultra

Introduction

Recurring on screen couples have been around for a long time. Because of fan demand and/or Hollywood's uninhibited willingness to milk a money maker dry, popular acting duos are sometimes reunited in a completely different project just for nostalgia's (and greed's) sake. Since most of you reading this are probably unaware of how far back they have gone, I will just mention some of the more fairly recent screen couples this time. Besides, Hollywood's diversity was almost nonexistent fifty-plus years ago so, they all pretty much looked alike. In the 80's, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were reunited twice in the span of five years due to their popularity (Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, The War of the Roses). Though not romantically involved, Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes had their film debuts in the 1986 movie, Wildcats, before headlining the popular, White Men Can't Jump, and the not so special, Money Train. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were in ten films together where with the exception of JFK, they shared the top billing (The Odd Couple 1 & 2, Grumpy/Grumpier Old Men, and more). Some couples have worked well together each time, like Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road), and Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan (Joe Versus the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail). Some have hit and missed, like Richard Gere & Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride), and Adam Sandler & Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, Blended). And some should have never tried, like Ben Affleck & Jennifer Lopez (Gigli, Jersey Girl), and Matthew McConaughey & Kate Hudson (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Fool's Gold). There are plenty of more couples to mention as well but, I've got a movie review to write. Bottom Line; Recurring couples are a mixed bag that sometimes pays off for the viewer, and other times just pays off the studios.

American Ultra

One recurring onscreen couple that works, is with Jesse Eisenberg & Kristen Stewart in, American Ultra. They were first together in 2009's Adventureland (I love that film). Despite Eisenberg's neurotic paranoia and Stewart's undeserving attitude (both of them in both films), they clique in a way that makes them easy to watch and root for. They are so watchable together, that they make an uneven film like this enjoyable. Now, American Ultra is a decent overall movie, but there's a sense of familiarity while watching it. I've seen this movie before. I saw it in The Long Kiss Goodnight. I saw it in Grosse Pointe Blank. I saw it in Burn After Reading. All superior films, by the way. There's also a handful of other films sprinkled into the mix as well. The general lack of originality is prevalent throughout. However, there's plenty of action and humor to distract from that. There are some cool moments once the story kicks into gear. Simultaneously, the action grinds to a halt for periods of time when instead, it should have kept going on a juggernaut's course. There are more than a few pieces of carnage interlaced with funny reactions and consequences. But did it all have to be so forced and convenient?
Aside from Eisenberg and Stewart, the supporting cast gets a scattered amount of scenes to work with. Some better than others. Connie Britton (American Horror Story) as the film's "guardian angel", is effective to a point, but her character gets held back by the story and her costars. Topher Grace (That 70's Show) as the film's main antagonist, is funny at first as an overbearing asshole, then wears out his welcome about half way through. You can only hear the same bitchy remarks and comebacks so many times before you want to smack him in the face. My favorite costar, is once again played by Walton Goggins (The Shield). His character is a tad inadequate for most of his appearances yet, it pays off tenfold during his final scene. Someone get this guy some bigger roles for Christ's sake! He has so much range as an actor that he very well could be the next Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker's Dracula, JFK). Bill Pullman (Spaceballs), whom I haven't seen in years, is wasted in the couple of scenes he's in. What was his character again? Despite Eisenberg's and Stewart's chemistry, his character's twitchy obsessions gets old, and her revealing twist near the end, is as contrived as it is predictable.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of American Ultra

The Good- Police station take down Terminator style, black light strip club beat down, and the long take department store final battle.
The Bad- An actor of John Leguizamo's (Spawn, John Wick) skill set, being once again used as a two-bit hood who's taken out way too soon. WTF?
The Ugly- Goggin's broken toothed mouth, feeds into his performance and makes him more ape-like with each scene.

Final Thoughts on American Ultra

American Ultra has its moments with some good performances, a witty sense of humor, and some energetic action. Too bad it could've been better if the writers had relied more on their imaginations, and less on other's accomplishments. Wait for this one as a rental. It's worth a gander. Hopefully Jesse & Kristen won't reunite for a third time as a pot head couple. They have more depth than that. I think.
Rating- 6 out of 10
Running Time- 96 Minutes
Action/Comedy

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