Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Jars Are No TVs When It Comes To Improvised Weapons

Having seen American Ultra over the weekend, yeah, they wasted Walton Goggins. He just laughs a lot, loses a couple of teeth, and gets a speech at the end that hammers some theme of the film in a remarkably unsubtle manner. Not much to work with there.

His character is a possible psychotic the CIA turned into a killer for them, and is one of many Topher Grace tries to use to kill Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg), who years ago agreed to be used for an experiment in exchange for getting out of prison. Eisenberg's memories of this were buried, but when he was about to be killed as a loose end, the agent in charge of the project uses the trigger word, and he proceeds to lay waste to most of the killers sent after him. Major assist from Kristen Stewart's character who was his handler and decided to stick around and watch over him/be his girlfriend.

The end is kind of crap. Eisenberg, who was after all, taken advantage of in a time of desperation by the government and used, first as a lab rat, then as a killer, is targeted for execution because Topher Grace is an asskissing toady who wants a promotion. Eisenberg, having refused to die, ends up working for the CIA again, killing people, as the only alternative to being taken into the middle of nowhere and shot twice in the back of the head. Bill Pullman, who runs the CIA, gets a nice killing machine, rather than some bullets in the face. I mean, what's that say? If you're experimented on and used by the government, your only hope is to lean into it and continue to be a useful tool?

Oh, and Goggins' character is almost certainly running around loose. In a more optimistic movie, I would hope that Mike showing mercy helped Laffer and he isn't busy turning into Steve Buscemi's character from Con Air. But this isn't exactly a film that encourages that interpretation.

Granting that my perspective is somewhat skewed by years of watching characters in action movies take extraordinary amounts of punishment and keep going, I did wonder at how easily Mike was able to defeat some of the trained killers in the supermarket. I'm not sure whether a metal dustpan is that effective as a stabbing implement. But the one I noted most was I think he took out one guy by smashing him over the head with a jar of something he just grabbed off a shelf. I think it was pickles. One shot to the head, and the guy dropped. That happened a lot, albeit usually with things more suited to the task than a jar.

There were some good scenes in the film, Stewart and Eisenberg both did fine. Nothing great, but I'd been meaning to get around to seeing it for awhile, so mission accomplished.

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