Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.


Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

You know you're in for a rough evening when you kill someone with a spoon.

It was an accident. Mostly. It's not like Mike Howell is a practiced flatware assassin—or, at least, not that he remembers. For the last few years, Mike and his girlfriend, Phoebe, have spent their days smoking weed and scarfing popcorn and getting the occasional tattoo. Sure, they nearly took a trip to Hawaii together, but Mike's panic attack ended that little dream and made sure they stayed firmly in their rut.

It's doubtful that the town of Liman, W.Va., even offers assassin cooking classes. Not that Mike could take them anyway—what with his high-pressure job and all. Why, even on the night of the silverware mishap, Mike was toiling away at the local convenience store, doodling out elaborate cartoons and occasionally helping himself to some instant ramen.

But then something weird happened.

Someone came in.

Yeah, crazy, right? No one ever visits this particular convenience store. Then, even more mysteriously, the visitor grabs stuff off the shelves! And she puts it on the counter as if she's going to buy it!

But instead of plopping down a few bucks or a credit card or any other barter-worthy items, she begins talking gibberish—perfectly intelligible words strung together in an utterly meaningless pattern (much like, my editor might say, this review). She repeats the same "sentence" several times, then apologizes and leaves—not even bothering to take her milk with her.

Like I said: weird. And then something even stranger happens: Mike sees a couple of guys fiddling with the wheels on his car. When he walks outside and tells them to stop—carrying with him a Styrofoam cup of instant ramen and a spoon—they both whip out guns.

Fifteen seconds later, those dudes are lying dead on the ground—bearing wounds from their own weapons, the instant ramen and, of course, the spoon. Mike stands above them, dinnerless and spoonless, wondering what just happened.

Perhaps there's just one rational explanation.

"There's a chance I might be a robot," he says.

Positive Elements

For better or worse, Mike is not a robot. But he is the most secret of secret agents—one so secret that even he doesn't know it. But because he was part of a mostly failed CIA experiment, he's now a liability. And at least one suited spook plans to secretly terminate Mike's secret status permanently.

This is not positive, of course. But it does allow several people opportunity to do the right thing. Victoria Lasseter—the gibberish-speaking woman from the convenience store—she risks both life and livelihood trying to save the guy. Petey, Lasseter's old assistant, also puts his career on the line to prevent a humanity-squelching catastrophe. And, naturally, Mike and Phoebe repeatedly rescue each other from terrible situations. The two lovebirds clearly care for each other, and Mike—wanting them to be together for the rest of their (potentially short) lives, even works in a marriage proposal.

It's pretty obvious Phoebe has given up a lot for Mike—putting up with his panic attacks and clueless behavior and just plain aimlessness. But we later learn that she has sacrificed even more than Mike suspects.

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Mike and Phoebe live together. In flashback we see, from Mike's perspective, an interlude with Phoebe. He and we see her from the shoulders up while they are sexually engaged. The two also kiss and cuddle.

It's suggested that Petey is gay. In trying to apprehend Lasseter, the CIA concocts a cover story involving her alleged "inappropriate contact" with monkeys. Mike's friend/drug dealer, a guy named Rose, has adorned his basement with paintings of bare-breasted women. There's a reference to oral sex. Mike and Rose meet outside a strip club. After making an illicit exchange, Rose asks Mike whether he'd like to go inside and do acid. Mike says he'd rather not, it being 8 a.m. and all.

Violent Content

It's not just spoons Mike utilizes for killing purposes. Indeed, he uses a variety of household wares. He garrotes one man with a metal dustpan. He chops through the forehead of another with a meat cleaver. He clubs a guy's thigh with the claw of a hammer, shortly after his assailants stabs through Mike's hand with a screwdriver. He rakes still another through a bevy of lightbulbs. A frying pan plays a role in one shooting, with the bullet entering and exiting a man's chest with a splash of blood. Mike tells Phoebe that when he stabbed the man with the spoon, the guy's lungs exploded.

Audiences don't see any lungs go boom—but everything else is on gratuitous and gory display. More than 20 people die during the course of American Ultra, and most do so in pretty horrible ways.

Rose and his two friends are killed with shotgun blasts, and all three deaths are shown in excruciating detail, one in slow-motion. Other people are also mowed down, or disabled by way of fireworks, or nearly choked to death with an electrical cord, or blown up in a car soaked with gasoline, or almost killed by poisonous fumes, or injured from falling through a ceiling. People get Tazed. Someone knocks out someone else's teeth with a pair of handcuffs. A man brutally beats a woman, leaving her face a bloody, torn-up mess.

We're then subjected to a bloody animated short during the credits, wherein Mike's cartoonish creation (and in this scenario, his alter ego) kills a number of bad guys in grotesque ways. We see decapitations, flying organs and at least one brain crawling along the bottom of the screen.

Crude or Profane Language

Just about 100 f-words and 30 s-words. A voluminous amount of other foul exclamations include "a--," "b--ch," "h---," "t-tty" and "p---." The n-word is thrown around. God's name is misused five or six times, once with "d--n." Obscene gestures are made at least three times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Toking marijuana is perhaps Mike's and Phoebe's favorite pastime, so we see a lot of it here. Mike mentions that his car is loaded with pot and mushrooms (explaining his reticence to call the police after he kills those two guys messing with his wheels). Lasseter tells Mike that she brought him in to this special spy program after he was arrested for dropping LSD. Rose snorts cocaine.

Other Negative Elements

Rose also sells illegal fireworks. Mike vomits (a lot) after being subjected to poisonous gas, and he's shown retching into a toilet during a panic attack.


Before things get too crazy in American Ultra, Phoebe and Mike are hanging out on Mike's car hood, looking down on an accident scene in the street below, where a car ran into a tree. Mike gets pretty emotional at the sight. He talks about how beautiful and free the car must've been before its trajectory was so rudely interrupted by the tree. He seems on the verge of tears.

"Am I the tree?" he asks Phoebe. He wonders whether he wrecked her life and won't let her move on.

It's a fairly introspective moment in a movie purposefully lacking them. For the most part, American Ultra is a silly, schlocky, salacious study in excess—excess blood, excess drug use, excess obscenity. I guess that shouldn't surprise me since it's helmed by Nima Nourizadeh, the same guy who directed one of my least favorite movies of all time, Project X.

This bizarre mashup of The Bourne Identity and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is not without its small charms. But it has so many big problems as to make the whole experience more than a little miserable. Turns out, Mike isn't the tree: This movie is. It's a disaster waiting to happen, and it truly is trying to keep you from moving on to better fare.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Jesse Eisenberg as Mike Howell; Kristen Stewart as Phoebe Larson; Topher Grace as Adrian Yates; Connie Britton as Victoria Lasseter; Walton Goggins as Laugher; John Leguizamo as Rose; Bill Pullman as Krueger; Tony Hale as Petey


Nima Nourizadeh ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

August 21, 2015

On Video

November 24, 2015

Year Published



Paul Asay

Content Caution

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!