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American Ultra 2015

American Ultra

American Ultra

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About the American Ultra 💬

For the first five minutes of AMERICAN ULTRA, audiences may feel like they are watching a charming little indie film about two quirky characters-which is exactly what the filmmakers intended. Mike Howell, the movie's main character, is a smarter-than-average but completely unmotivated slacker. He is stuck in a small town, working at the local convenience store and living a very ordinary life with his girlfriend Phoebe.

''If you take the story down to its most basic elements, it's about this guy who wants to propose to his girlfriend but his world gets turned upside down,'' says director Nima Nourizadeh. ''Mike has only one goal: propose to Phoebe. Then, over the course of one night, everything turns upside down and there are all these hurdles he has to jump.''

For the director, who earned accolades in Hollywood for his 2012 debut film, Project X, this script stood out in the action-comedy genre. ''It ticks so many boxes with a unique blend of disparate elements that you don't normally see together,'' says Nourizadeh. ''It has romance, it has action, it has a lot of comedy, so it's full of surprises and takes you places you won't expect. It starts off in the tiny, almost claustrophobic world that Mike and Phoebe have been living in and then it gets crazy.''

When the action suddenly shifts from Liman, West Virginia, to CIA headquarters, something far more sinister than romance starts to take shape. A clandestine government program is about to rain terror down on a sleepy West Virginia town. The object of the attack is… Mike Howell?

''That's when you realize that American Ultra is an action film with plenty of ass-kickings that also pokes fun at the genre,'' says Max Landis, the film's writer. ''It is high-level, in-camera action, but no matter how hard that element pushes, the indie dramedy about a stoner couple pushes back just as hard. Of course, that doesn't mean we didn't create some killer fight scenes.''

One of the big selling points for Nourizadeh was the script's ambitious amalgam of classic genres. ''It combines so many different things in an interesting and organic way,'' he notes. ''The conventions will be familiar to filmgoers, but they are mashed up a little bit, which changes everything. I like taking things that people think they know and presenting them in a new light.''

The inspiration for the action/comedy is a real-life CIA attempt to create super warriors that lasted three decades. The formerly covert program, known as MK Ultra, was launched in the 1950s in an effort to turn ordinary citizens into superhero-level operatives. Using psychotropic drugs to enhance psychological conditioning, better known as torture, government scientists treated the human brain like a computer and attempted to radically reprogram their subjects to be the most effective and dangerous assets possible.

The attempt to turn out a generation of Jason Bourne-like super assassins failed miserably. ''You can wipe a hard drive, but when you wipe a human brain, it tends to break,'' says Landis. ''I became a little obsessed with what I learned. I kept thinking, what if a regular guy got involved? How would he react? That spawned American Ultra.''

''The script is funny and scary and violent and sweet,'' producer Anthony Bregman says. ''It makes you swing in so many directions emotionally, which makes for a great movie experience. Max knows the action genre well, which allows him to make fun of it while living up to the conventions and expectations.''

A large part of the humor comes from the fact that the filmmakers never lose sight of the idea that reclaiming his hardcore combat skills doesn't change who Mike is. ''Mike is a bit of a dreamer and he never loses that quality,'' says producer David Alpert. ''It's just that now people are trying to kill him. We always tried to maintain a connection to what it would really be like if the stoner guy in your town got these abilities.''

Nourizadeh, whose first film has established him as an innovative new talent in Hollywood, impressed the producers with his ideas for maximizing both the action and the humor in the script. ''Nima is a startling visionary in terms of how he sees a scene,'' says Landis. ''He didn't change the script much, but the things he added made it even better. He structured the rhythms and beats in a way that is genuinely funny and fun to watch.''

Nourizadeh brought a sharp sense of humor, as well as an authentic sense of danger and visual excitement to the script, according to Bregman. ''He is better than anyone I can think of at establishing a really calm, stable atmosphere on screen that eventually explodes into a state of complete choreographed chaos. It's really fun to watch that build and ignite.''

American Ultra Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Nima Nourizadeh

Writing Credits

Max Landis


Jesse Eisenberg

Kristen Stewart

Topher Grace

Connie Britton

Walton Goggins

John Leguizamo

Bill Pullman

Tony Hale

Music by

Marcelo Zarvos

Cinematography by

Michael Bonvillain

Genres: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi (Science Fiction)

Countries: United States, Switzerland

American Ultra Official Trailer

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