Sunday 19 January 2020

On DVD (from the remainder bin) – Barrie Pattison discovers AMERICAN ULTRA (Nima Nourizadeh, USA, 2015)

This scaled down Bourne ripoff, with a bit of A History of Violence and Telefon thrown in, appeared from nowhere and went back there, though headed up by hot couple Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart who register here as effectively as they did in Adventureland and Cafe Society.

Jesse is the town stoner clerking in the super market in fictional small town Liman, West Virginia with some time out drawing his King Kong Comic strip. Though the sheriff is tired of seeing him in his jail, Jesse has a panic attack whenever he tries to leave town. His narration describes him and girlfriend Kristen “We were the perfect fucked-up couple.”

However, in the first of the film’s moderately surprising developments, things are not what they seem and mean suit Topher Grace plans on putting them right by sending in the men in black, which upsets motherly Connie Britton. “We’re supposed to look after assets. We don’t kill them.”

After a flashback where the scenes are running in reverse (I thought that was great in the first film I saw it) and some so so digital footage of a satellite, guys in Hazmat suits are blowing things up and shooting people in a quite lively way. Psycho Walton Goggins is ticked off at losing his teeth and wants Kristen to watch as the car Jesse is trapped in goes up in a ball of fire - as if it was that easy. Her brandishing the paper clip triumphantly is a particularly nice moment. One of the things that lifts this movie out of routine is Stewart’s ability to produce reactions that make vivid the intention of her scenes. She’s so good that it’s a disappointment she still hasn’t had the breakthough part. Maybe Seberg will do it.

Topher has Tony Hale trembling at the prospect of being taken out of his office and shot on the spot for treason and the body count is getting a bit high even for one of these. It’s time for severe Bill Pullman in dark coat and hat to get in there and sort things out in the rain. This puts Connie on the spot but she comes through.

The movie’s last minute switch into Gary Leib’s animation is a welcome way to take the edge off some nastiness. “I didn’t know I could speak Mandarin.” 

First time director Nima Nourizadeh is not disgraced. The script has its moments. There’s money on the screen and the cast are way superior even though it’s a pity they don’t get value out of John Leguizamo and his fluoro nightclub. 

Why I had to see this one via a remaindered DVD takes some explaining.

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