An occasionally over-the-top effort that fails to raise its own bar throughout
One of those films that has an enjoyably bonkers premise (think the wild Jason Statham effort Crank) and an alarmingly capable cast to elevate the lunacy - Kate Beckinsale, Jai Courtney, Susan Sarandon, and Stanley Tucci, just to name a few on board - Jolt should be a much better film than it ultimately is. It’s a treat to have Beckinsale back in the action seat after retiring the long-running Underworld series, and Jolt being helmed by a female director (Tanya Wexler) is a further tick for continued female dominance in the action genre, but there’s surprising restraint shown in fully embracing its violent, B-movie premise. Jolt is meant to have that “bad movie” stink all over it, and what should’ve been a balls-to-the-wall midnight movie riot is ultimately little more than an occasionally over-the-top effort that fails to raise its own bar throughout.
Tanya Wexler directed one of 2019’s finest gems in Buffaloed. It was a nasty-minded comedy about an in-debt debt collector who waged a war with the very companies coming after her. That film proved she could handle bizarre-leaning material and an extended ensemble. Jolt, however, appears to be the type of material that Wexler doesn’t quite feel comfortable in navigating. The kinetic style she has adopted here doesn’t feel unique and the manner in which the cast have all tackled their individual roles come off as if she had conversations with them stating that none of them are starring in the same film as each other.
The notion of lacing someone’s anger management issues with literal violent tendencies is one that could have resulted in something truly entertaining. And, to Jolt’s credit, it gets about halfway there. There’s an almost comic book mentality to the framing of Beckinsale’s Lindy, given that she has incredible strength (intermittent explosive disorder, or some such nonsense) due to a neurological problem she was afflicted with at birth. It basically means she has uncontrollable rage issues - you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry - but thanks to an all-over body contraption, courtesy of Tucci’s friendly psychiatrist, she’s able to keep her anger in check by literally shocking herself whenever she feels that brutal urge. It’s ridiculous but we’ve seen more out there plots be utilised successfully, and when some big bads off Lindy’s bed buddy (a deliriously charming Courtney) she goes on a quest for revenge - apparently he’s very good in bed - to channel her anger into taking this underworld crime gang down.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Though her tiny frame may suggest otherwise, Beckinsale does have a natural way about her when handling the action stakes in a film. Jolt mostly works to her advantage. Her violent temperament belongs in a better film (with a much better script) but she’s one of the main reasons to persevere through some of the more questionable ingredients of this film. Tucci is as Tucci does, Sarandon pops up in an odd manner that suggests a Jolt 2 is on the pitching table, and Bobby Cannavale and Laverne Cox (as a duo of cops on Lindy’s trail) feel constantly at odds with each other in terms of their motivation and delivery, but it’s Courtney that surprises the most as Lindy’s love interest. The actor has rarely flexed his nice guy muscle before so it’s quite a treat to see him play a more grounded character. For an accountant who apparently doesn’t do overly well with women he’s stupendously in shape and far too good looking, but the scenes between himself and Beckinsale as they start to fall for each other have a nice naturalism to them that you almost wish the film was more of a love story.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There’s nothing in show here that feels remotely distinctive. The fight scenes and shoot outs are all kind of “been there, done that” and, at times, set pieces feel downright cheap that it’s hard to decipher if that was an intentional additive to keep audiences in the mind frame of how B-grade this movie is supposed to be.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
It may not be too much to look at, but it sounds as you’d expect. Fight scenes, love scenes, reveal scenes, chase scenes…Jolt caters to them as on brand as it sees fit, which is essentially without any real ingenuity.
So much promise, but sadly executed in a less-than manner, Jolt’s main reason for existing is to enjoy the violent spectacle of Beckinsale taking names in an angry fashion. She deserves better. With a director and screenplay that never push the boundaries far enough, Jolt’s eventual familiar groove undoes any of the lunacy that feel so promising in the ideas the film suggests.