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American Ultra (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 96 minutes.

Not for children.

This is advertised as a ďfast-paced action comedy.Ē I agree that itís fast-paced and full of action, but I saw very little comedy. I donít think I even smiled once, much less laughed.

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a nerdy, freaked out kind of wimp living in Liman, West Virginia, who likes to get stoned, works in a local convenience store, and is working on a graphic comic book about a super hero monkey, all the while hoping he can get courage to propose to his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart).

Suddenly all hell breaks loose as a sociopathic CIA agent (Topher Grace) assigns what seems to be the entire U.S. armed forces to assassinate him. Thus begins an interesting chase film with Mike and Phoebe trying to survive while another CIA agent, Lasseter (Connie Britton) is trying to save him.

It began as a spec script by Max Landis and itís based on a real illegal CIA attempt that was known as MK Ultra, in which they conducted experiments on humans intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture, in order to weaken the individual to force confessions through mind control.  Started in 1953, MK Ultra used different methods to alter people's mental states and change the way the brain functions, including surreptitious administration of drugs, like LSD, and other chemicals. Often the subjects didnít know what was being done to them. It ended 20 years later in dismal failure, except that it spawned this movie.

The only downside of this film is the unbelievable violence; itís almost like a horror film (itís not) there is so much mayhem. Even so, the acting is very good throughout, especially Eisenberg and Stewart, although Grace gives a memorable performance as an overaggressive, homicidal CIA agent.

I was turned off by the pervasive violence and the really silly fights with totally incredible results. I had to think long and hard before I gave it a positive rating, but in the end I concluded that it was entertaining and unusual and that there was no fear that anyone would go to sleep on it.