Directed by Tanya Wexler.
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale, Jai Courtney, Laverne Cox, David Bradley, Susan Sarandon, and Ori Pfeffer.
Lindy is an acid-tongued woman with rage issues who controls her temper by shocking herself with an electrode vest. One day she makes a connection with Justin, who gives her a glimmer of hope for a shock-free future, but when he’s murdered she launches herself on a revenge-fueled rampage in pursuit of his killer.
At one point, a detective demonstrates a great deal of trust towards Kate Beckinsale’s Lindy by saying he doesn’t think she would hurt him or the child passenger in the back seat (the kid was ejected from classes and sent home for releasing the school pet outside) of the police cruiser. It’s Jolt‘s key exchange meant for a character to express his understanding of her anger management condition and explain that the world has her wrong for mistreating her differences. Considering society has a habit of holding down strong women, not to mention anyone that doesn’t fit the mold of normalcy, the message is clear and noble. However, it rings hollow and absurd factoring that 15 minutes ago, Lindy was in a maternity ward tossing newborn babies across the room, hoping that her pursuer on the right side of the law would catch them and be distracted from continuing the chase.
Also, that’s not accounting for the number of times she does attack people, that while rude and jerky, don’t necessarily deserve a bone-crunching MMA style ass-beating. It’s also not something Lindy can control, born with a rare condition that leaves her supremely emotional at all times and always on the verge of snapping in someone’s direction for ticking her off, justified or not. As such, kooky medical practitioner Dr. Munchin (Stanley Tucci) – after what appears to be a tough upbringing of rage, isolation, scientific experimentation, and losing contact with family – has developed a contraption strapped to her body and hidden from plain sight that delivers a shock of electricity to her cerebral system at the push of a button whenever Lindy wants to suppress her urges to fight. The fact that this device requires free will to operate even though it’s already been shown that this is all reactionary and impulsive on behalf of Lindy already feels like selective logic from Scott Wascha’s script (his debut writing credit and it certainly shows), but something presumably everyone would be willing to accept provided Jolt offered something of substance or the action brought high-octane thrills.
In defense of director Tanya Wexler (responsible for 2019’s energetic and scattershot entertaining Buffaloed), every once in a while, the narrative treats the condition with seriousness as male doctors surrounding her recommend various treatments. This also allows for an admirable feminist slant showcasing how these men generally recommend misguided solutions or are more concerned with repression rather than acceptance. There’s also a fairly intriguing stretch early on where Lindy falls for a sensitive and kind accountant named Justin (Jai Courtney, actually putting in one of his better performances) while wrestling with how much information to divulge about her disorder and fearing that the slightest annoyance could have her fly off the handle physically on someone she is sincerely growing affection for. Amusingly, Justin questions if the device wrapped around Lindy’s body is something kinky before learning a fraction of the truth and rolling with it.
Now, it would be wrong to fault Jolt for being an action movie, but it’s actually frustrating once the film switches to that gear because, by this point, it’s already been made apparent that the filmmakers have no idea how to make this condition relatable in the context of lashing out and violence without coming across tasteless and wrongheaded. Lindy frequently has visions of hurting people before shocking herself, but those murders of innocent people grossly come across as an opportunity to let the blood flow for entertainment purposes rather than conveying a conflicted state of mind worth investing in. The fight scenes themselves are also bland, as if Jolt is desperately trying to mimic the Jason Statham Crank movies (over-the-top violence with a condition and device restricting the protagonist in some capacity) with villain motives that are unbelievably predictable and boring.
Essentially, Jolt doesn’t get anywhere near as wild and creatively insane that the chaos needs to be to make veering away from the emotional groundedness of Lindy’s character and her connection with society worth it. There is one memorable hand-to-hand fight sequence that pits her up against many henchmen. In contrast, the rest is either uneventful or outrageous in a manner that hurts the character’s likability. Insultingly, an epilogue introduces a new character played by Susan Sarandon, setting up a sequel to send Lindy too far in the opposite direction, embracing her impulsive hostility. Thankfully, it probably won’t ever get made, seeing how Jolt short-circuits early on and never recovers.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com