American Ultra has gone to the Kingsmen School of Misleading Trailers. Kingsmen: The Secret Service sold itself as a light-hearted action romp. But the movie that appeared on screen was a dark, hard-R rated action spy flick. The movie comes to a head when it creates a strawman right wing church, then engages in a liberal fantasy as they all kill each other in brutal fashion. That scene ends with the main hero getting shot in the head. I say all this to say that Kingsman's trailer was totally inappropriate for the movie presented on screen.
Likewise, American Ultra sold itself as the second coming of Pineapple Express. Obviously, this movie is going to be a stoner comedy, with action elements. My hope was for a second coming of The Other Guys, an action comedy that uses the action to achieve comedy. Alas, neither are true.
Instead, American Ultra is a pretty dark film. It has all the pessimistic outlook of espionage statecraft that would put any Bourne movie to shame. Like Kingsmen, American Ultra has some pretty gruesome death scenes. It stole the police station scene from Terminator. There is, in fact, very little comedy in this film. The drug use gives us no laughs; it is just sad (which is, I guess, as it should be). Quite a few bystanders die in the film, including the aforementioned police officers. There is no real hero in this movie, as the main character kills a lot of men who were, as it is revealed, manipulated and twisted to be gruesome CIA hitmen. And when it is all said and done, he goes into active service for the CIA.
Now for the positives: The fight scenes were very effective and occasionally inspired. Topher Grace fit into his role like a glove, a douchey, arrogant, unlikable glove. Watching Connie Britton getting her revenge on Topher Grace was surprisingly enjoyable.
The writer of American Ultra cannot understand why his movie fails. (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/american-ultra-screenwriter-goes-twitter-195818807.html) Well, sir, it is because we're being sold a stoner action comedy which is not a stoner comedy.