HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: American Ultra
HTS Overall Score:76
I was thoroughly prepared to hate “American Ultra” going into this review. I saw the unimpressive trailer during the summer blockbuster rush and immediately set it the side. I even went so far as to talk my friends out of seeing it in the theater and going to watch “Hitman: Agent 47” instead (and that was big mistake I will tell you!). I mean, it has Kristen Stewart and Topher Grace in it for goodness sakes! Two of the worst actors of the last few decades, or in the case of Topher, one of the most annoying actors. Color me pink, slap a tutu on me and put a big sign on my chest that says “gotta eat crow”, because I ended up enjoying the movie WAAAAAAAAAAY more than I thought I would. It’s wild, insane, crazy and full of nonstop action, reminiscent of Timur Bekmambetov’s “Wanted” in many ways. It has its flaws, but “American Ultra” pleases far more than it disappoints in my humble opinion.
Mike Howell (Jessie Eisenberg) is your run of the mill stoner living in a run of the mill town. He gets high every day with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) and then goes to work at the local mini mart. Seems pretty average until a CIA agent Victoria Lasseter comes to town and warns him that his life is in dangerous before spouting off a few lines of gobbelty gook and vanishing into the night. Mike shrugs her off as a harmless looney until later that night he walks out to find two men covered in black messing with his car. Being attacked by both said men, Mike suddenly finds out that he has some incredible self-defense skills that he never knew he had. It sort of seems like Mike maaaaaaaaaay have been a super-secret CIA project a few years ago where they trained 3rd strike offenders to become agents. Only problem is that most of them went insane, so Victoria Lasseter shut down the program and wiped all of their memories to save them.
Thing is, the CIA has decided that Mike Howell is a liability, and lead agent Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) has sent in his own experimental group of soldiers (ex looney bin members who have been trained to kill) to get the job done. After Phoebe gets caught in the cross fire and captured by Yates, Mike has to team up with Victoria to save his girlfriend, and hopefully get some answers along the way, most of which will probably not make sense to the drug addled stoner retail worker turned super spy.
“American Ultra” is an ultra crazed, ultra fun little action movie that really isn’t as slapstick as it appears. Much of the humor is in the first act of the film with Mike getting used to his new found powers. Once the action really gets going the humor sort of fades into the background and any that is left is slid into the cracks here and there vs. making it an all-out stoner comedy. That alone raised its quality a bit in my eyes, as the trailer made it out to be a total comedy with bits of action thrown in. Instead the movie has some good humor and a little bit throughout the film, but it’s just nonstop guns, knives, explosions, blood, gore and everything good in life all thrown into a big meat grinder. Much like “Wanted” Mike Howell can pull off some crazy stunts with weaponry, and does so many times throughout the film (such as using a frying pan to make a pin point accurate shot using deflection).
There’s nothing realistic at all about “American Ultra”. Even the plot is just so over the top ludicrous. We have the CIA taking missions on American soil (something they can’t even remotely do on this level), raze entire towns with soldiers, incapacitate other law enforcement agencies, and even kill their own with impunity. Then we have super-secret agents that are near invincible and who can kill you with a butter knife, a sock and a dust pan. That’s just in the first half hour of the film! Is it serious? No. Is it pure comedy? No. Is it fun? I would say that’s a big yes.
There are a few problems here and there, mainly in the pacing, but they aren’t big enough for to no enjoy the movie. Kristen Stewart actually was rather tolerable here, but she plays the background character love interest so she luckily couldn’t mess up the movie too much. The bad comes in the same package as the good. That is, there is just so much lunacy that sometimes suspension of disbelief is a bit hard. So it’s kind of a duel edged sword here.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=59593[/img]The 1.85:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray for “American Ultra” is a nice shiny digital picture that really is almost flawless. Colors are bright and well saturated, with deep greens, bright reds and wonderfully rich blues. Blood tends to look a bit CGIsh and fake at times, but it’s not too horrible, and fine detail is amazing. Every line and curve on Connie Britton’s face is readily apparent, and every nick, ding, bruise and cut on Jessie’s body is replicated with razor sharp clarity. Long shots look every bit as good as the up close scenes, with no hint of softness. Blacks are deep, inky and show great shadow detail without the problems of banding or washed out blacks. Digital artifacting is nowhere in sight, leaving us with a beautiful, clean and clear looking picture to enjoy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=59601[/img]“American Ultra” holds the distinction of being the SECOND existing title to carry the DTS:X object based audio codec (DTS’s competing format to Atmos). Much like the Atmos tracks, the DTS:X track on “American Ultra” is AMAZEBALLS. Dialog is clean and clear, with a rock roaring bass line to keep pounding away at you the entire hour and a half. To make things even better, the track manages to be incredibly nuanced as you can hear guns cocking sharply, bullets smashing through glass, helicopter blades thudding methodically in the background and even the slight crunch of gravel grinding against a rubber soled boot. Surrounds are in high gear, blasting away with anything and everything at the track’s disposal. Including those tiny little ambient noises, up to the cacophony of battle in a completely immersive audio experience. Simply put, the DTS:X experience is just as awesome as the phenomenal Atmos tracks I’ve sampled so far, and it gives much more of a workout than the much more subdued DTS:X track in “Ex Machina”
• Activating "American Ultra: Documentary
• Assassinating on a Budget Featurette
• Gag Reel
• Audio Commentary with Director Nima Nourizadeh
“American Ultra” ended up being a lot more fun that I thought it would be. Especially considering how much I despise Kristen Stewart’s “acting” in her movies. It was loud, brash, and reminded me greatly of “Kingsman” from last year in terms of heavy violence and over the top comic book acting. There were some flaws to the execution, but not enough for me to not enjoy myself greatly. It’s a check your brain at the door movie, but one done quite well all things considering. Video is amazing, and the DTS:X audio is to die for, leaving me with a solid recommendation for checking it out. Especially if you’re an action junkie.
Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Bill Pullman
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh
Written by: Max Landis
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS:X (DTS-HD MA 7.1 Core), English DTS 2.0, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: November 24th, 2015
Buy American Ultra Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch
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