Synopsis – A bouncer with a slightly murderous anger-management problem that she controls with the help of an electrode-lined vest she uses to shock herself back to normalcy whenever she gets homicidal. After the first guy she’s ever fallen for is murdered, she goes on a revenge-fueled rampage to find the killer while the cops pursue her as their chief suspect.
My Take – With female rage continuing to be a draw as a dramatic subject matter, it was high time the deep sub-genre added some fun to their presentation.
Helmed by director Tanya Wexler (Hysteria, Buffaloed) and penned by first-time screenwriter Scott Wascha, Amazon Prime‘s latest actioner at first look seems something that is heavily inspired by Atomic Blonde (2017), except in reality, it’s more of a gender-switched version of the Jason Statham-fronted Crank films which saw its protagonist continually shock himself to keep his heart rate above the point where it would kill him.
While this film isn’t as wonderfully ludicrous as those two considering it is backed by a much simpler revenge theme, it does get very close especially when it moves into action mode and lets Kate Beckinsale, known widely for her Underworld series, do what she does best i.e. charm guys with her beauty, and then beat them up violently. Containing all the charge of a delicious B film like a dumb plot that is undercut with excessive killing and hilarious quick-witted humor, the film is without a doubt a 91 minute joy ride.
Sure, it isn’t prestige cinema, but it is far smarter than its exploitation trappings, and a breezily entertaining reminder of how delightful it is to watch Beckinsale spill out one-liners or simply just get pissed off.
The story follows Lindy Lewis (Kate Beckinsale), who since a very young age has been suffering from intermittent explosive disorder, which sees her impulsively lose control and lash out violently when she sees something go wrong.
Despite years of therapy, and her attempts to vent as a member of the military or an athlete in extreme sports, or at a simple job as a bouncer, which let her use her super-strength and propensity for violence to make ends meet, Lindy has found only one way to curb her desires, a vest made out of electrodes by her therapist, Dr. Ivan Munchin (Stanley Tucci), which allows her to give herself little electric shocks whenever her rage gets too overwhelming.
Hers is a lonely existence, with no friends and no close people in her life, but at Dr. Munchin’s insistence Lindy decides to give dating a try. A blind date which introduces her to an accountant named Justin (Jai Courtney). Though the date doesn’t go very well, he charms her, and during their hook up doesn’t balk at seeing her body covered with the electrodes that deliver her self-administered, rage-reducing shocks.
Leaving Lindy all giddy with joy the next day and hope for a normal life, that is until it all comes crashing down when she finds out that Justin has been murdered, and the police detectives assigned to the case, Detective Vicars (Bobby Cannavale) and Detective Nevin (Laverne Cox), suspect Lindy’s involvement, given her history and her rap sheet. In response, Lindy launches her own investigation into Justin’s case, diving into a criminal underworld she can navigate efficiently due to her special skills, shredding the city’s entire criminal and underworld in the process.
Through all the havoc, director Wexler keeps the focus on maintaining Lindy’s vengeful desire as the film’s guide. Lindy might not need a man, but she sure enjoys incapacitating them, and Beckinsale handles the genital-focused violence with aplomb and cheeky self-awareness, which she also brings to various fantastical sequences where Lindy imagines going berserk and killing people who annoy her.
Plus, in a refreshing turn of events, Lindy doesn’t need to be empowered through wielding guns, a cheap device that filmmakers too often lean on for female action stars. She rarely touches guns, deriving her empowerment from her own anger, sorrow and pain, channeling it into her hands and fists. This is a B-film designed by people who knew exactly what kind of enjoyable trash they were making.
The film is at its best when it keeps things simple. Big-budget set pieces, pared-down dialogue and some truly gleeful soundbites hit hardest when left alone to their own devices. Visually the film is chaotic, with overworked production design and effects chucked at the film like candy-colored confetti.
While it’s not always as sharp as it could be, the energy in the film never falters, and there are definitely amusing bits. Nevin’s constant busting of Vicars’ schoolboy crush on Lindy is some sweet cop comedy. A maternity ward scene showcasing the most alarming use of infants as props and while Lindy’s panic button prevents her from acting out a number of vicious impulses, director Tanya Wexler has no inhibitions about showing us what goes on in her head. There’s also a running gag in which everyone asks if she was the dead man’s girlfriend, and Beckinsale is at her subtle comic best tossing off noncommittal responses.
But for all its shortcomings in terms of storytelling execution, character development and making full use of its premise on a more bonkers level. The cast is dialed up and fully invested in the screenplay. Especially, Kate Beckinsale who is still as bad ass as she ever was and throw herself into the action making the film far better than it has any right to be. Though Lindy is whip-smart, witty, beautiful, and Beckinsale is especially great at playing Lindy when her guard is down and when she’s feeling lost, vulnerable and unable to control her actions.
In supporting roles, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale and Laverne Cox and Jai Courtney are likable, while David Bradley is effectively creepy in a small role, though Ori Pfeffer is wasted. Susan Sarandon only appears to set up a sequel. On the whole, ‘Jolt’ is an unabashedly silly yet enjoyable action comedy driven by Kate Beckinsale‘s charming and fierce performance.
Directed – Tanya Wexler
Starring – Kate Beckinsale, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale
Rated – R
Run Time – 91 minutes