What Is 'American Ultra' Actually About? Here's What To Know About The Action Movie/Spy Thriller/Stoner Comedy


In the new movie American Ultra, Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg star opposite each other in an apparent contest to find out which one of them wears long, unkempt, brown hair better. Besides their similar appearance, though, the film seems to have an awful lot going on. Just going by the trailer, Eisenberg's character seems to be a stoner who works at a convenience store and is dating Kristen Stewart's character. So far, so good. But then he starts killing people Jason Bourne-style, the CIA sends a bunch of people after him, he confesses that he thinks he might be a robot, and everything gets complicated. So, what is American Ultra about, anyway?

For those who can't quite make sense of the posters, here's an explanation. In American Ultra, Eisenberg portrays Mike Howell, a stoner who works as a cashier in a small town who doesn't do much besides smoke weed. But Howell is actually a highly-trained CIA assassin, something he has no recollection of, and after the agency who trained him decides to kill him, his skills are activated by his old handler, Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton), in order to turn him into a killing machine. He then has to use his rekindled abilities (which involve things like killing people with a spoon) to save himself and his girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart), from getting killed by the U.S. Government. So, basically, it's Jason Bourne if he were a stoner.

The movie is big on both action and laughs, but this is hardly the first time Eisenberg has blended yuk yuks with an unexpected genre. Here are five other times when the actor starred in a film that's part comedy, part something completely different, making for one great — but at first, totally confusing — movie.

The Squid And The Whale

Movieclips on YouTube

Dramedies aren't unheard of by any means, but ones that deal with the pain of a parents' divorce are heavier than most. Eisenberg portrays one of the kids going through the ordeal in this film from Frances Ha director Noah Baumbach.


Mortenir on YouTube

Zombie horror plus comedy equals cinematic gold. What once seemed like a risky premise has now almost become a genre of its own with zombies infiltrating every aspect of pop culture, but Zombieland remains the best of the zombie comedies.

The Social Network

LeonardoCSS leonardiniwai on YouTube

Intense biographical drama: Check. Academy Award for Best Picture? Check. Lots of good jokes: Check? A movie about the founding of Facebook could have been extraordinarily boring in the wrong hands, but Eisenberg somehow managed to make Mark Zuckerberg funny, and the movie was hugely entertaining.

30 Minutes Or Less

hoesers on YouTube

It's more of a comedy than the other films on this list (Eisenberg's co-stars are Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, and Danny McBride), but this movie doesn't play it straight for laughs. It's part crime action thriller, with a heavy dose of violence mixed in among the chuckles.

The Double

StudiocanalUK on YouTube

In this psychological thriller, Eisenberg meets the new guy at work who is his exact doppelgänger... expect for the fact that he's his exact opposite when it comes to personality. The movie's plot could have ended up being an overlong Twilight Zone episode, but instead the situation is played for comedic effect whenever it's not messing with your brain.

Eisenberg is no stranger to the genre-mixing film, and he brings his unique sensibilities to this month's American Ultra.

Images: Lionsgate Films