Critics Consensus

American Ultra is Half-Baked

Plus, Hitman: Agent 47 and Sinister 2 both misfire badly, and Show Me a Hero is Certified Fresh.

by | August 20, 2015 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a reluctant assassin (American Ultra, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart), a remorseless assassin (Hitman: Agent 47, starring Rupert Friend and Zachary Quinto), and remorseless revenant (Sinister 2, starring James Ransone and Shannyn Sossamon). What do the critics have to say?


American Ultra (2015) 44%

American Ultra has a pretty ingenious premise: what if a perpetually stoned slacker was a brainwashed killing machine? Unfortunately, critics say this would-be mashup of The Manchurian Candidate and Pineapple Express is undone by an inconsistent tone, veering wildly between laughs and ultraviolence — though stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart make a charming pair. Eisenberg plays Mike, a small-town layabout who lives blissfully unaware that he was once trained as a CIA super soldier. When the agency decides to eliminate him, his dormant powers are activated and chaos ensues. The pundits say American Ultra is quite sweet and charming in spots, but it devolves into the kind of mediocre shoot-em-up it seemed to parody in the first place.


Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) 8%

Hitman: Agent 47 is a sequel/reboot to a video game adaptation that wasn’t particularly loved to begin with. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that critics say it’s a bland, shallow action flick that heaps more loving care on its shootouts than its characters. Rupert Friend stars as the titular assassin, who acquired his murderous talents as part of a secret government experiment. He’s tasked with tracking down a woman who knows secrets about the program’s origins. The pundits say Hitman: Agent 47 is thoroughly generic stuff, and its occasional flashes of craft do little to elevate its hollow emotional core.


Sinister 2 (2015) 15%

In Sinister, a writer moved into a house that was bedeviled by a ghoul that lurked within the frames of old Super 8 films. Critics say Sinister 2 is haunted as well — by a dull script and a decided lack of scares. Shannyn Sossamon stars as a woman who moves into an isolated farmhouse with her sons to escape her abusive husband. Soon, however, the malevolent spirit Bughuul turns up with his box of haunted Super 8 reels. Critics say Sinister 2 substitutes jump scares for real tension, and it’s only on the strength of the acting that the film sustains any interest.


 What’s Hot on TV

 

Show Me a Hero: Season 1 (2015) 96%

Show Me a Hero is an impressively crafted period drama whose timely themes prove as absorbing as its engaging, compassionately drawn characters.


Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1 (2015) 76%

Fear the Walking Dead recycles elements of its predecessor, but it’s still moody and engrossing enough to compete with the original.


Kevin From Work: Season 1 (2015) 55%

Kevin From Work relies on raunchy jokes delivered by unsavory characters, but the show’s gags hit their targets often enough to elevate a rather routine premise.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

 

  • Being Evel (2015) , a documentary portrait of legendary motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, is at 100 percent.
  • Blood Cells (2014) , a drama about a transient laborer haunted by family secrets, is at 100 percent.
  • Station to Station (2015) , which documents a cross-country train trip and features short works by a wide range of artists, is at 90 percent.
  • Grandma (2015) , starring Lily Tomlin in a comedy about a woman who visits a bunch of old friends iin order to borrow money to help her granddaughter out of a jam, is at 88 percent.
  • The Iron Ministry (2014) , a semi-experimental documentary about China’s railway system and its passengers, is at 86 percent.
  • Guidance (2014) , a comedy about a former child star who fakes his way into a gig as a high school guidance counselor, is at 80 percent.
  • The Mend (2014) , starring Josh Lucas in a comedy about a man who stirs up dysfunction when he crashes on his brother’s couch, is at 75 percent.
  • Digging for Fire (2015) , starring Jake Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt in a comedy about the marital tension that arises when a man makes a strange discovery at a rented house, is at 70 percent.
  • Learning to Drive (2014) , starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley in a romantic drama about a lovelorn woman who bonds with a cabbie while receiving driving lessons, is at 45 percent.
  • After Words (2015) , starring Marcia Gay Harden in a drama about a woman in the midst of a personal crisis who meets a younger man while on vacation, is at 40 percent.
  • 6 Years (2015) , starring Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield in a drama about the ups and downs in a young couple’s relationship, is at 40 percent.
  • Peter Bogdanovich‘s  She's Funny That Way (2014) , starring Owen Wilson and Imogen Poots in a screwball farce about a theater director who casts his wife and her ex  alongside his mistress in a new play, is at 38 percent.
  • The Curse of Downers Grove (2015) , a horror film about a hex that claims the life of a high school senior each year, is at 20 percent.
  • Some Kind of Beautiful (2014) , starring Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek in a comedy about a rakish professor in love with his girlfriend’s sister, is at zero percent.

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