On the upside, Stewart and Eisenberg earned some praise from critics for their acting and chemistry.
The negative comments mostly focused on the meandering script, excessive violence and over-the-top gore. The movie received an “R” rating for “strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and sexual content.”
While other celebrity sites were fawning over the movie, IM reported exclusively in July that an “R” rating would effectively kill the picture.
Anyone under the age of 17 can’t attend without a parent or guardian. That effectively cut out high school and junior high kids who would get off on the sophomoric humor and video-game-scale violence.
For that very reason, many theaters are reluctant to screen “R” movies. Still, “American Ultra” opened on a respectable 2,778 screens, according to boxofficemojo.
But it earned only a paltry $1,963 per theater on average over a three day weekend that wasn’t particularly strong to begin with.
“Straight Outta Compton” won the weekend with a $26.4 million domestic gross its second weekend out. It was on 3,705 screens, up from 2,750 for its debut, according to boxofficemojo.
“An amusing idea, but the ugly violence and weepy dramatics effectively kill any comedic buzz,” wrote New York Newsday critic Rafer Guzman, characterizing the negative sentiment.
In a rare trifecta, three top industry trades, Variety, Hollywood Reporter and TheWrap all panned the film.
But maybe they just didn’t get it. The movie won praise from tony up-scale pubs like The New Yorker and New York magazine.
New Yorker critic Richard Brody was effusive. “[Director] Nourizadeh, working with a script by Max Landis, plays Mike’s bloody violence like visual guitar riffs, and approaches the martial-arts set pieces with heavily underlined wit,” he wrote.
Among major daily newspapers, The New York Times delivered a positive review. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Post and New York Daily News savaged it.
Oddly, “American Ultra” screenwriter Landis is already floating ideas for a sequel.
Stewart and Eisenberg are a hot acting duo, so they’ll easily survive this bomb. If a sequel is made, hopefully they’ll get better writers.
The movie co-starred Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale and Monique Ganderton.
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