American Ultra

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
American Ultra Movie Poster Image
Extremely violent, bloody drug comedy believes in true love.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Amid the movie's violence and irreverence are ideas about getting back up and trying again and standing by your friends and loved ones, even if the odds seem impossible. In a smaller way, the movie also champions doing the right thing, even if it doesn't seem that way in the moment.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a powerful super spy. Female characters are also highly trained agents, but the general behavior here is irreverent and iffy and not worth emulating.

Violence

Extremely strong, cartoonish action violence. Heavy blood and gore, including blood spurts and bloody faces and clothes. Female characters are beaten up and smacked around. Many guns are fired and many secondary characters killed. Fighting, stabbing, and beating with blunt objects. Teeth knocked out. Explosions. Heavy animated violence during closing credits.

Sex

Paintings of topless women in sexual positions. Main couple kisses passionately. Very brief images of suggested sex, focusing on faces. Some sex-related dialogue. Scene in front of a strip bar. Brief, graphic cartoon sex images during closing credits.

Language

"F--k" is used several times, as are "s--t," "bitch," the "N" word, "t-ts," and "piss." Middle finger gestures.

Consumerism

Several brands are shown while the main character is working in a market: Fruit Loops, Tootsie Rolls, etc. Taco Bell is mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main characters regularly smoke pot. Regular cigarette smoking. A secondary character snorts cocaine. Mushrooms are mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Ultra is an action comedy with tons of violence, blood, and gore, as well as pot smoking. The violence is really over the top, with shooting, fighting, beating with blunt objects, stabbing, slicing, spurting blood, dead bodies, explosions, and more. Language is very strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and the "N" word. Characters smoke pot or cigarettes in several scenes, and one character snorts cocaine. Sex is implied between the two leads; kissing is shown, and brief flashbacks focusing on faces suggest sexual pleasure. There's also sex-related dialogue and paintings of topless women in sexual poses. The closing credit sequence, which is animated, have even stronger sexual and violent images that flash by quickly. The movie has been marketed as a "stoner comedy" and seems aimed at fans of Pineapple Express, Harold and Kumar, and other similar movies.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySharp1 August 22, 2015

Lame Movie

Dumb movie with too much gratuitous cursing, even for my 14 year old boy who is no stranger to cursing. The one good thing is we were able to have a conversati... Continue reading
Adult Written byTHE DESTROYER OF ALL August 26, 2015
Teen, 17 years old Written byStevie111 August 21, 2015

Really good though extremely violent action comedy

This film definitely has more violence than humor, but it is still funny. There is obviously a large quantity of drug content and language throughout, but the s... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bybiovox14 March 19, 2018

Enjoyable dark movie

So this was an enjoyable movie, lots of action, some sweet moments, lots of blood. And lots of language. Not the best movie I've ever seen, but not that ba... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) lives in West Virginia and is mostly happy smoking pot and spending time with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). They try to go to Hawaii for a romantic getaway, but an anxiety attack prevents them from leaving. And when Mike is attacked at his job at a local market, some kind of forgotten training kicks in, and he kills two men. The CIA takes notice, and Mike's former handler (Connie Britton) tries to save him, while a nasty, bullying agent (Topher Grace) sets up a large sting operation, including more than a dozen trained killers, to take him out. But all Mike wants to do is find the right moment to propose to Phoebe.

Is it any good?

The movie's excessive, reckless violence rolls right over most of the comedy, but the two leads are so charming together that they save the day. AMERICAN ULTRA focuses, first and foremost, on its action, with lightning-quick fight scenes and shoot outs, as well as their bloody aftermath; characters go through the story wearing blood and gore spattered into just about every crevice. (In fact, it may be destined to freak out its potential cult stoner audience!)

Unfortunately, while the screenplay by Max Landis appears to have been meant to be funny, director Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) lets the comedy dissipate as the action grows larger (though a very funny John Leguizamo helps). Grace further sours things with his sadistic performance as an evil, bullying CIA man. But, in the end, Eisenberg is so thoroughly charming, and his chemistry with Stewart (carried over from Adventureland) is so sweet, that we can't help rooting for them to succeed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the drug use and smoking in American Ultra. Is it glamorized? Does it look fun or appealing? What are the consequences? Do you think movies like this one encourage drug use, or do they reflect drug use that already exists?

  • How prevalent is violence in the movie? Is it over the top? How did you react to it? How was the violence used to achieve this reaction?

  • How is sex depicted between the main couple, and how is it represented elsewhere? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Is the Topher Grace character a bully? How is he dealt with? How does it feel? What message does it send? Is there a better way of handling characters like that?

Movie details

For kids who love action and comedy

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