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American Ultra (2015)

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A stoner - who is in fact a government agent - is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he's too well-trained and too high for them to handle.


Nima Nourizadeh


Max Landis
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jesse Eisenberg ... Mike Howell
Kristen Stewart ... Phoebe Larson
Topher Grace ... Adrian Yates
Connie Britton ... Victoria Lasseter
Walton Goggins ... Laugher
John Leguizamo ... Rose
Bill Pullman ... Krueger
Tony Hale ... Petey Douglas
Stuart Greer Stuart Greer ... Sheriff Watts
Michael Papajohn ... Otis
Monique Ganderton ... Crane
Nash Edgerton ... Beedle
Paul Andrew O'Connor Paul Andrew O'Connor ... Diesel
Freddie Poole ... Potter
Ilram Choi ... Newton


Small-town stoner Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) spends most of his time getting high and writing a graphic novel about a superhero monkey. What Mike doesn't know is that he was trained by the CIA to be a lethal killing machine. When the agency targets him for termination, his former handler activates his latent skills, turning the mild-mannered slacker into a deadly weapon. Now, the utterly surprised Mike must use his newfound abilities to save himself and his girlfriend from getting wasted by the failed test subjects that are sent after him by the CIA. Written by Mr.Moiz

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The ultimate secret agent becomes the ultimate target See more »


Action | Comedy | Sci-Fi

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



USA | Switzerland


English | Mandarin

Release Date:

21 August 2015 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Operación Ultra See more »

Filming Locations:

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA See more »


Box Office


$28,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,454,284, 23 August 2015

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Auro 11.1 | Dolby Digital | DTS (DTS: X)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


"American Ultra" is often described as "Stoner Bourne." Walton Goggins had a supporting role as CIA tech in The Bourne Identity (2002) and plays a CIA field asset in American Ultra. See more »


When Mike grabs the gun from Rose's hand, the gun keeps changing from Beretta to Smith and Wesson and back. See more »


[first lines]
CIA Interrogator: Where do you want to begin?
Mike Howell: [thinking, seeing flashbacks] Dustpan. Spoon. Noodles. Bear. Frying pan. Fire. Apollo Ape. "Marry Me."Where did it all begin?
Mike Howell: Okay, it started three days ago, in the town of Liman, West Virginia. It's where I lived with my girlfriend, Phoebe. She is the only good thing that's ever happened to me. I honestly cannot even remember my life before her. We were the perfect fucked-up couple. She was perfect, and I was the fuck-up. And we were really, really ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the closing credits, there is an "Apollo Ape" cartoon depicting the continuity of the film's final scene. See more »


Referenced in Half in the Bag: 10 Cloverfield Lane and Me Him Her (2016) See more »


To Be Loved
Performed by The Pentagons
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A Fun, Flawed, Underrated Action Film with Unlikely Heroes
12 May 2016 | by brando647See all my reviews

American ULTRA is not only one of the most underrated films of 2015 but one of the most unjustifiably detested as well. It was far from perfect, but was it bad enough to warrant a meager 43% score on Rotten Tomatoes? I don't think so. Some of the dialogue landed with a thud and Walton Goggins could've toned it down a bit, but otherwise American ULTRA was a pretty slick little action film. In a year full of spy films, most will forget this little tale of the CIA and experiments gone wrong. Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pothead living in rural West Virginia with his longtime girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). He enjoys a peaceful life of smoking weed and working nights at the local general store and his only concerns are the occasional harassment from the local sheriff and crippling panic attacks whenever he tries to leave town. What Mike doesn't know (or, more accurately, doesn't remember) is that he was once part of an experiment with the CIA where he was trained to be the perfect assassin. When the program started showing adverse mental effects on the subjects, the project was closed and Mike, the most successful of the test subjects, had his memory wiped and was given his new life. But now a young CIA upstart (Topher Grace) sees his chance to make a name for himself in the agency and begins a new operation using his own trained killers to eliminate the remnants of the old program….including Mike. It'd be an easy enough mission, if someone hadn't activated Mike's programming to give him a fighting chance.

American ULTRA had been advertised as a stoner comedy, which was pretty deceiving. This is an action film with an equal balance of dramatic and comedic elements. There are few beats meant to get the audience chuckling but all of them are in the promotional materials, giving the impression this is more HALF BAKED than Jason Bourne. In reality, it's somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. And when you approach it from that angle, it's a pretty fun movie. It's a quick and easy 95 minutes that flies by at a sharp pace. The movie is pretty much in gear from the moment it begins, slowing down for a few brief moments to build on the relationship between Mike and Phoebe. I've seen this movie two or three times now and I haven't been bored yet. On the contrary, I dig it. Jesse Eisenberg is admittedly a strange choice of action star, but it works because Mike isn't supposed to be your average action hero. He's not supposed to be much to look at; as far as we (and he) are concerned, he's just a stoner who draws comics on the long, lonely nights sitting behind a cash register. Eisenberg works for the character because he can do neurotic incredibly well. When Mike starts slaughtering would-be killers with whatever mundane he's got handy, it's just as shocking to himself as it is to them. He has no idea what's happening; one minute he's straightening shelves, the next he's assaulted by a couple of men and he's jamming a spoon into one's neck with skills he's unaware he even has. With this disconnect and the resulting confusion, it's right in Eisenberg's wheelhouse and he rocks it. He's also got fantastic chemistry with Kristen Stewart

In fact, I'll come out and share my opinion that this is probably one of Stewart's best roles. I made a point of avoiding the TWILIGHT series so I've only really seen her perform as Joan Jett in THE RUNAWAYS and Snow White in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, and I've never shared the contempt most people have for her. I think she's got some skill and I've never seen her as good as she is in American ULTRA. Now, there's a "big reveal" halfway into the film that's a little hard to swallow but, for all of her interactions with Eisenberg and Topher Grace, I loved her. While Eisenberg and Stewart are a perfect pair of heroes, our villains aren't as strong. Topher Grace does really well at portraying smarmy and conniving and his character Yates is both of these things, but he's also too immature for me to believe he would've been promoted as far as he had and been given the opportunity to institute his own crazy operation. I loved his bickering with Stewart and some of his tantrums were amusing but whenever he tried to come across as threatening, he flat-lined. Walton Goggins is the other big baddie of the film as the only CIA super soldier worthy of remembering, Laugher. I love Goggins and it's great to see him in anything, but I hate Laugher's trademark forced hyena laugh with a passion. He's much better later in the film when he brings the craziness down a few pegs and his character starts coming to his senses a bit; I loved the final moments in the last battle between Mike and Laugher, almost as much as I loved this exchange earlier in the film when Laugher is preparing to set fire to a car that Mike's trapped inside:

Mike: (yells from inside car) "I hate you!" Laugher: (pauses in dumping gasoline on car to yell back): "Well, I f***in' hate you too, man!"

It's simple and stupid but it gets a laugh from me. There are a lot of little moments like that where humor peaks through the carnage. John Leguizamo has a small role as Mike's drug dealer that's good for some laughs and Mike's own naivety provides him with some good material. It's a perfect blend, really. I'm disappointed to see the lukewarm-to-cold response American ULTRA received. If you haven't seen it yet, I'm giving it a recommend. I think it's worth it and it might surprise you.

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