I saw American Ultra just one day after seeing Hitman: Agent 47, and the similarities between the two are misleading:
- Super-agents with amazing abilities
- Physics-defying stunts
- Protagonist who is unaware of their latent super-agent abilities
- Mentor who helps them unlock those abilities
- Everybody wants to kill the protagonists because of who they are, rather than anything they’ve done
I say “misleading” because that list might make you think they’re the same movie. They’re not. American Ultra is far better. It didn’t clear my Threshold of Awesome, but that’s a different scale than the one I’m using when I say “better.” American Ultra says things—interesting and important things—about the human condition. It revels in gun play like any spy movie does, but it does so in ways that let us count the cost. Also, it’s funny. Not all the time, but at the right times.
The result is that this is not the sort of over-the-top spy movie that fans of spy movies sit down for, and that’s where my other scale comes into play. This movie was better, and more fun, than Hitman: Agent 47, but came nowhere near being as much fun as Kingsmen: The Secret Service or Spy on my fun-o-meter.
Eisenberg and Stewart were perfect in their roles, and while I’ve seen Eisenberg shine before, this marks the first time I’ve felt that way about Kristen Stewart.
American Ultra enters my 2015 list at #16, a spot from which it really was quite close to climbing the final steps across the Threshold of Awesome. Close, but not quite.