director Nima Nourizadeh
Yeah, the stoner The Bourne Identity (2002). Not sure if that is an apt analogy (even though every critic seems to make it)? Well, the action of this comedy thriller takes place in Liman, WV (name-checking The Bourne Identity director Doug, I would suppose.)
There are probably a lot more in-jokes and references here, squeezed in by screenwriter Max Landis (son of John) and director Nima Nourizadeh (Project X (2012)). The movie brings back together Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart last seen together in 2009’s Adventureland. And as many seem to make note of, Eisenberg and Stewart wind up being the best thing about American Ultra. He’s the small town stoner sleeper cell and she’s his live-in girlfriend one-time handler.
And then there is Topher Grace as the CIA upstart with a hard-on to wipe Eisenberg off the map. And Connie Britton as Eisenberg’s former CIA overseer who reawakens his super killer abilities to fend off the attacks of all the rogue black ops killers.
The plot is simple and while technically original (not adapted) is referential and derivative and yet truly only half-baked. I suppose there is some sensibility that the audience will be half-baked themselves so maybe it all doesn’t matter that it’s not all that well-conceived, but the film’s charms are flimsy: the comedy seems muted to near silence while the action is not bad but not great.
I’m eternally amazed how Stewart is really appealing in almost any non-Twilight (2008) movie she’s in.