AMERICAN ULTRA – Review by Susan Granger

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This deranged action comedy has two things going for it: Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and Kristen Stewart (“The Twilight Saga”). They’ll probably account for more box-office clout that this dreadful stoner dirge deserves. Read on…

As it opens, bruised and battered Mike Howell (Eisenberg) is in jail. Why? Flashbacks reveal he’s a clerk at a Cash & Carry who draws a graphic novel called Apollo Ape when he’s not busy behind the register.

A laidback pothead, he lives with his supportive girl-friend, slovenly Phoebe Larson (Stewart), who works for a bail bondsman.

Mike bought an engagement ring and planned to take Phoebe to Hawaii to propose marriage but, at the airport, he suffered another one of his crippling, yet inexplicable anxiety attacks.

Back in their rural West Virginia bungalow, slacker Mike gets ‘activated,’ meaning he suddenly becomes a super-soldier, killing two menacing hitmen with a spoon, making him the target of a CIA manhunt led by an uptight government agent, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), who is determined to eliminate him.

“What if I’m a robot?” he wonders.

Borrowing from “Pineapple Express” as well as the Jason Bourne concept, it profiles a seemingly ordinary guy who discovers he’s covert sleeper agent, caught in a government conspiracy. But I’m afraid I’m making it sound more interesting than it really is, since getting from point A to point B is so tedious that I dozed off.

Sluggishly scripted by Max Landis (“Chronicle”) and repetitively directed by Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X”), it re-teams Eisenberg with Stewart, hoping to re-ignite some of their “Adventureland” (2009) sizzle.

Connie Britton scores as Mike’s old CIA handler in the Ultra program, who tries to rescue him, while John Leguizamo does yet another crazed drug dealer, plus there’s Bill Pullman and Walter Goggins.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “American Ultra” is an ultra-violent, blood-splattered 3. Dopey in more ways than one, it’s amazingly awful.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.