Directed by Tanya Wexler.
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale, Jai Courtney, Laverne Cox, David Bradley, Susan Sarandon, and Ori Pfeffer.
A bouncer with an anger management problem goes on a revenge-fuelled rampage after the murder of a friend.
Everyone’s chasing their own John Wick vehicle these days, and Kate Beckinsale is certainly an alluring pick to receive her own neon-splashed gonzo action-thriller franchise. But Jolt, which was acquired by Amazon Studios earlier this summer after collecting dust on a studio shelf for almost two years, is a woefully unimaginative, mirth-deficient mishmash of John Wick, Atomic Blonde, and Crank.
Since childhood, Lindy (Beckinsale) has been suffering from Intermittent Explosive Disorder – a real condition, in fact – which results in her having uncontrollable rage-filled outbursts, typically ending in violence being inflicted upon any offending party in the vicinity.
This forced Lindy to live a solitary life until her psychiatrist-cum-quartermaster Dr. Munchin (Stanley Tucci) came up with a novel treatment, fitting her with a device which allows her to deliver electric shocks to herself whenever she gets angry. As we all know, mild electrocution will definitely cool a person’s temper.
But just as Lindy appears to start living again, her new love interest Justin (Jai Courtney), a bespectacled normal guy who couldn’t seem nicer, ends up dead, setting Lindy off on an untethered rampage of revenge.
A dearth of subtlety shouldn’t be a bad thing in a movie like this, yet the script from first-time writer Scott Wascha lacks any scrap of sly smarts or self-awareness whatsoever. As such it feels less like a fun time than a relentlessly loud and aggressive piece of work.
Tonally, this thing is also all over the place; Lindy brutally assaults a bitchy restaurant waitress in a scene that’s played bizarrely for laughs and comes off horribly mean-spirited as a result. Lindy’s bloody odyssey is far more palatable when focused on her smacking around gross men who, get this, actually deserve it – though a scene where she bops a manspreading asshole on the subway is undeniably amusing.
What disappoints most of all is that Jolt doesn’t take its dishy premise nearly far enough; it’s less interested in staging creative set-pieces than in unspooling a tedious murder investigation all while Lindy attempts to clear her own name. This is all served by a deeply exposition-centric plot and characterisation, leading to what must be one of the least-surprising plot twists in recent cinematic history.
There are moments that tap the nutty vein of the Crank movies – when Lindy rips a guy’s Prince Albert piercing out, electrocutes a dude’s testicles, or plays catch with a baby of all things – but too often even the more potential-rich action is flattened by Tanya Wexler’s technically sloppy direction.
Beyond the overabundance of hilariously noticeable ADR dubbing, a potentially thrilling car chase is cut into awkward oblivion where it’s difficult to discern the special relationship between vehicles. A frantic foot chase through narrow hospital hallways fares better but it’s over too soon, and a sharply-choreographed fight scene later in the movie obscures Beckinsale’s face at all times to make it painfully obvious we’re watching a stunt double at work.
It’s a shame because Beckinsale is clearly well-cast as the lead; she’s charming, quippy, sexy, and a persuasive ass-kicker, yet one senses she was willing to give so much more to this than either the script or action design were able to allow her.
The franchise potential for this setup speaks for itself, but Beckinsale is largely left to illuminate a dull, flavourless end product. Perhaps most criminally, the film also wastes a talented ensemble, including Courtney, Tucci, Bobby Cannavale, Laverne Cox, and in an hilariously throwaway cameo, Susan Sarandon. Only the great David Bradley, chewing through his Bad Guy Dialogue with wicked aplomb, really feels like he’s utilised well at all.
You could certainly watch far worse if you’re in the market for an undemanding genre joint that runs scarcely 80 minutes without credits, but the kernels of a far more interesting film are absolutely here. It feels very much like a first draft script that got excitedly rushed into production with a director lacking the confidence to execute the action with sufficient skill. Though the film’s ending expresses a clear interest in a franchise with a somewhat puzzling sequel hook, it’s difficult to imagine many mustering much enthusiasm for it.
An energetic but strangely charmless actioner, Jolt squanders the thoroughly game Kate Beckinsale in a pedestrian remix of several superior prior action flicks.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.