Dec 032015

American Ultra has some things going for it from an interesting story that combines Bourne with Pineapple Express to fun performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart who shows some actual charisma utterly lacking in many of her other movies; yet at the same time, and as outlandish and fun as the story is, it’s not terribly memorable.



American Ultra


The Movie
| Special Features | Video Quality | Audio Quality | Overall

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Thriller
Lionsgate | R – 96 min. – $29.99 | November 24, 2015

Directed by:
Nima Nourizadeh
Writer(s): Max Landis (written by)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale
Commentary, Featurettes, Gag Reel, DVD Copy
Digital Copy: Yes
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS:X/DTS-HD MA 7.1), English (DTS 2.0), Spanish (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 41.7 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A

** Click Here to Purchase American Ultra on Blu-ray from

THE MOVIE – 3.0/5

Not bizarre enough to be memorable, American Ultra attempts to mix Pineapple Express with The Bourne franchise and really doesn’t do well in either instance. However, I can’t say I was ever bored so this was a mixed outing for director Nima Nourizadeh.

American Ultra centers on stoner couple Mike (JESSE EISENBERG) and Phoebe (KRISTEN STEWART) who are happy living an unassuming life in small town West Virginia even though they work in dead-end jobs. However, they seek something more but thanks to Mike’s panic attacks, they can’t even get on a plane for a Hawaiian vacation.

At CIA headquarters, Mike’s constant attempts to leave town attracts the attention of Adrian Yates (TOPHER GRACE) because in fact Mike was once a part of a project called ‘Wiseman’ created by Agent Victoria Lassiter (CONNIE BRITTON) who receives a “courtesy” call that the remaining asset in the defunct program is set to be eliminated by Yates. Concerned for his safety, Lassiter goes to town to warn and ultimately activate Mike as an army of secret engineered assassins descend upon the town.

Utilizing a series of words, Lassiter “activates” Mike’s inner Jason Bourne persona and takes on a plethora of highly trained government agents and assassins while trying to understand how he learned these skills, not to mention protect his hoping soon-to-be fiancée Phoebe, and ultimately what happened in his past.

It’s a pretty basic premise somewhat along the lines 2006’s Smokin’ Aces filled with colorful characters from a drug dealer (JOHN LEGUIZAMO) to a psychotic assassin (WALTON GOGGINS). The film blends the spy genre, namely the Bourne franchise, with the stoner comedy of Pineapple Express but at the same time has its own style, and for the most part, it’s effective.

The performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are both great, yes I did say even Stewart. Eisenberg is fun in the lead and continues to show himself to at least be capable enough in these types of films but surprisingly Stewart showed some actual expression and… personality, something she lacked in the Twilight franchise and Snow White and the Huntsman. I don’t know if it was the directors of the various movies or her own choice to play characters with one (maybe two) looks on her face. Topher Grace, for his part, basically plays a similar character from Spider-Man 3… meaning a class A douche bag; he’s fine as the film’s main villain.

American Ultra, for all that is good, is also a bit uneven. While I did find it for the most to be entertaining enough, and for all that is odd about the characters, is at the same time not entirely memorable. I will admit that there are a couple of scenes that at least stood out including a sequence during the finale that had a one-take cut (in my initial viewing I didn’t notice any obvious breaks).

The film was helmed by Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) from a screenplay written by Max Landis (Chronicle). While it could’ve been better with either a tighter or an even more outlandish story, American Ultra at least kept my attention through the duration of the reasonable 90-minute running time (sans credits). I don’t know when or if I’ll ever revisit it, but it is at least worth a rental or purchase when it comes on sale or bargain bin.



This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover. Inside contains a standard DVD Copy and redemption code for the Digital HD copy.

Audio Commentary – Director Nima Nourizadeh gives an informative commentary on the making of American Ultra but being solo it is low key and sticks to the point in an almost academic way breaking down various scenes.

Activating American Ultra (40:22; HD) delves into the origins of the story and provides some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew as they talk about the plot and characters. It’s surprisingly extensive which is not so common nowadays…

Assassinating on a Budget (3:25; HD) shows how Eisenberg’s character killed on a limited budget (i.e. noodles @ $1.99; frying pan @ $15.99, can of tomatoes @ $0.89, etc.)

Last up is the classic Gag Reel (2:42; HD).


VIDEO – 4.25/5

Lionsgate releases American Ultra onto Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer (MPEG-4 AVC codec) and shown in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio. For the most part, the picture quality isn’t too bad with some scenes showing as incredibly vibrant, particularly a scene in which Eisenberg and Stewart are trapped in a blacklight room to a few other instances where colors are blown out. However, the majority of the film does take place at night and detail can get a tad murky though close-up shows are nicely detailed and I didn’t notice any major instances of aliasing or artifacts, so it’s at least a pleasant-looking transfer.


AUDIO – 5.0/5

This comes with the new DTS:X, the company’s answer to Dolby’s Atmos multi-channel track. As with Atmos, for those receivers unable to decode, it will output as DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 but either way it’s a fantastic sounding high-definition lossless track providing for both low levels with dialogue levels to the upper echelon of audio during the various action-oriented scenes such as the grocery store gunfight. It was surprising to see this new version come with a movie like American Ultra considering its lackluster box office, but it is well done and near reference quality.


OVERALL – 3.25/5

Overall, American Ultra has some things going for it from an interesting story that combines Bourne with Pineapple Express to fun performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart who shows some actual charisma utterly lacking in many of her other movies; yet at the same time, and as outlandish and fun as the story is, it’s not terribly memorable. That said, it’s probably worth a rental. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate offers good/great video and audio transfers while the features, including the solo featurette, is decent enough.


Brian Oliver a.k.a. The Movieman
Published: 12/03/2015





Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

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