A film review by Craig J. Koban July 31, 2021

JOLT j
 

2021, R, 91mins.

Kate Beckinsale as Lindy  /  Jai Courtney as Justin  /  Stanley Tucci as Dr. Munchin  /  Bobby Cannavale as Detective Vicars  /  Laverne Cox as Detective Nevin  /  Susan Sarandon as Woman With No Name

Directed by Tanya Wexler  /  Written by Scott Wascha
 

 

 

 

ORIGINAL FILM

I was just ten mere minutes into the new Amazon Prime action thriller comedy JOLT when I realized that I didn't think any ten more minutes of it would be required viewing.   

This...this is some kind of movie, alright.  

Beneath its bat-shit crazy premise lurks a fairly paint-by-numbers and cheaply forgettable genre exercise...but...that premise!  Oh boy.  

Let's just say it involves Kate Beckinsale (who deserves a committed participation medal, if they were awarded to movie actresses) playing a mentally unstable character that has to wear a special electrode-riddled undergarment that shocks her (via a trigger that she controls) in order to stop her from seriously injuring or killing someone.  The sheer kinkiness factor is on red alert levels in JOLT, but I'm willing to go with just about any crazy flick (see my endorsement of the two CRANK entries), but this picture is so haphazardly uneven, unfunny, and unconvincingly scripted (at least as far as its own internal logical will allow) that I just mentally checked out really early into the proceedings.  Beckinsale is a beyond capable and convincing action heroine, but JOLT is proof positive of having a very game actress pulling out all the stops to elevate mediocre execution of the material.  And considering the sheer limitations of its central concept, this film felt exhausting and barely capable of filling its already short 90 minute running time. 

JOLT opens with a fairly barbaric origin of Beckinsale's Lindy, who had a very, very violent childhood and adolescence, to say the least.  She suffers from an ultra rare neurological impairment (Intermittent Explosive Disorder) that results in her reacting with hellishly savage verbal and physical aggression at the slightest of provocation (in one particularly vile moment we see kid Lindy savagely beat a boy with a lead pipe...my...how funny!).  There's one positive with her abnormal condition: Her body produces an obscene amount of cortisol, which gives her crazy amounts of unnatural strength and agility.  Her parents fear that she is forever damaged goods and sends her to the insane asylum, and while there a shadowy organization tries to find a way to weaponize her gifts.   

So, clearly and just a few minutes in, JOLT is the feel-good action comedy of 2021. 

 

 

Sarcasm aside, Lindy got out of medical custody and did a failed stint in the army (yeah, impulse control issues never would have allowed for such a career) before she hooked up with a kindly doctor, Munchin (Stanley Tucci), who offers her a brilliant, if not extremely odd, form of therapy for her that he thinks will cure her of her insatiable appetite to hurt people.  Via the aforementioned self-activated shock treatment vest, Lindy is given a chance at freedom...provided she pulls the trigger before she's, well, triggered.  Feeling that he's hit some sort of breakthrough, Munchin believes that it's time for Lindy to graduate up to a higher level challenge: going on a date!  She has one of the oddest meet cutes in movie history with a kindly and dweeby accountant named Justin (Jai Courtney), and - wouldn't ya know it! - they hit it off and start a sexual fling (granted, Justin seems like an awfully good sport when he learns of Lindy's form of self-help therapy before they hit the sack together).  Just as Lindy feels that she's hit a high in her treatment and has achieved happiness with Justin, the poor sap is killed via what appears to be nefarious means, leaving Lindy in a predictably vengeance fuelled rage.  

Finally, she be able to use Intermittent Explosive Disorder to her very advantage. 

Kate Beckinsale.  God love her.  Her character here is one that I'm quite sure a dozen or so other high profile actors wouldn't touch with a proverbial ten foot pole, but she's reasonably decent here playing this hyper aggressive anti-hero with an unstoppable blood lust.  Then again, maybe not a total stretch for her, considering her participation in the vampire/werewolf themed UNDERWORLD series.  Having said that, she's not a one-note stoic bore and charisma void here in the part like she was in those past films, and she brings a commendable amount of snarky vitality to this strange part. Unfortunately, the writing here is just not as embraceable as Beckinsale's presence, and Scott Wascha's screenplay doesn't really do a good job at all of developing her throughout the story.  She kicks ass, makes cheeky quips, and then kicks more ass, makes cheeky quips...rinse and repeat.  Her revenge fuelled odyssey that she partakes in the second half of the film would have also been more interesting if it wasn't written on pure genre autopilot.  Essentially, the script here is just a closeline to hang up all of the bloody standoffs that this mentally disturbed character finds herself starting...and not much more.  And the fact that she seems pretty impervious to both pain and death means that the stakes never really matter here. 

That's not to say that JOLT doesn't have some good adrenaline soaked action beats.  Director Tanya Wexler drums up some deliriously amped up moments of senseless mayhem, like perhaps the best constructed sequence in the film featuring what seems like one long single shot foot chase in a hospital between Lindy and her police detective pursuer that ends in a maternity ward filled with babies (a good place for cover from a cop's bullets).  And very similar to the recently released GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE, JOLT scores decent points for its slick, neon hued color palette and how it envisions some of the frenetic fantasy sequences that show Lindy dreaming about how a bloody beatdown of her prey would go down if she didn't shock therapy herself.  The cinematography is glitzy and showy, which sometimes helps to overcome some of the film's surprisingly cheap looking production design (the same shots and angles of what obviously appears to be a backlot is almost obsessively overused here, an oftentimes to distracting effect).  JOLT was shot in England and Bulgaria and it wants to make us think that it passes for some unspecified American city, but it wholly fails in this regard. 

The film builds towards a climax of numbing predictability (to say it's anti-climatic would be a vast understatement), during which time the audience is given the least shocking would-be shocking plot twist in a long while (the real identity and motivations of one character can be deduced quite early on, even if one is just barely paying attention to the what's happening in this cockamamie narrative).  We're then given an eleventh hour sequel baiting scene for follow-up entries that this final product never once requires nor deserves.  JOLT ends with a whimper as opposed to a mind blowing shot gun blast to the senses, which is to its ultimate discredit.  Again, the premise here is nuttier than a fruitcake and not without its gnarly potential (and having Beckinsale willing to do and say just about anything in the film has its benefits too).  JOLT could have easily achieved the level of a B-grade, guilty pleasured genre romp, but it's so schizophrenically all over the map in terms of its tone, focus and execution that it never becomes a perversely enjoyable piece of organized chaos.  It's just a crazy mess of a film, and not much more.  

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