Review: ‘American Ultra’ lights up some laughs along with the violence

2015-08-28-American-Ultra-movie-posterBy MARK VIOLA

More often than not, the first impression anyone gets of a movie is the trailer. Depending on the film in question and the budget its studio is putting behind the production, you might get multiple versions, beginning with an initial teaser followed by two to three longer versions. Sometimes, however, even after watching all of the previews, you can walk into a movie thinking you’re about to get one film and discover you’re watching something quite different.

And that brings us to “American Ultra,” a comedic action film starring Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”). Having watched the trailers, I went into this movie expecting an action-filled comedy and instead got the aforementioned comedic action film. Those two descriptions are quite similar, but they can be worlds apart.

In short, “American Ultra” is not as funny as I thought it was going to be, but that is not because the comedic moments didn’t produce laughs, but instead because the movie was more interested in setting up the action and developing its two lead characters. While the story itself has more than its share of holes and discrepancies, the overall movie I think works better as it is than the movie the trailers led me to believe I was going to see.

This also allows the movie to take itself a bit more seriously than say “Spy” (a very, very funny comedy), which gives the characters and their problems some additional weight, which is what ultimately helps the story overcome its flaws and gives the audience an overall enjoyable, albeit bloody, 90 minutes.

Overall, the flaws in “American Ultra” are noticeable but are more distractions than roadblocks to enjoying the movie, because I really did enjoy watching this. In the end, it offers thrills and laughs, and that’s what I wanted in the first place, even if the movie was not quite what I expected.

The movie is rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content.

(This is a shortened version of the full review available in our printed or e-edition papers.)


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