Review: 'Jolt' (2021) Dir. Tanya Wexler
This new Amazon Original, continuing to boost their streaming profile, is an intense action film headlined by Kate Beckinsale on the brutal quest for revenge, pushing her to the very limit...
Lindy (Beckinsale) has suffered all her life due to a rare neurological disorder. The disorder clouds her emotions and throws her into violent, almost murderous actions against those who annoy, confront or simply irk her.
Controlling the outbursts with an electrode vest wired to her skin, thanks to Dr. Ivan Munchin (Tucci). Lindy uses the vest to try and fit back into normal society, and even forms a relationship with Justin (Courtney), a man who actually makes her feel worthy of affection.
Yet that worth doesn't last long when Lindy and Justin's world is turned upside. Hunted by police detectives Vicars (Cannavale) and Nevin (Cox) as prime suspect in a murder enquiry, Lindy taps into her disorder to help fuel a brutal path of vengeance against the true criminals...
We all have moments where red mist clouds our judgement. 99% of the time, we control it and simply imagine what it would be like to smash in the face of someone who is rude to you, or breaking the legs of an arrogant waitress or putting a bullet into people who treat you with contempt. But here, for Kate Beckinsale's Lindy, for 99% of the time she doesn't control it. She is woman suffering from a neurological disorder (almost made out like a violent super-power) that reduces her emotional state to stone-cold zero and makes her unable to see reason, empathy or patience with the world and people she surrounds herself by.
Not to be lumped in with the 2006 Jason Statham flick Crank, Jolt does make use of electric stimulation to carry our anti-hero along, but instead of keeping her heart beating, Lindy needs her jolt to break the red-mist when she has a rising surge of emotion. At the push of a button, the vest she attaches across her torso jolts her and allows her to calm down, focus and avoid a potential amount of bloodshed. But why would she want to calm down and focus or avoid bloodshed when she finds herself up against a group of criminals that took away everything she saw as good in the world?
This is Kate Beckinsale's Atomic Blonde or Lucy; she's a more than capable established actor who is engaging as an action star thanks to her previous track record and ability to convey moments of pathos and hurt in-between the snark and faux confidence she needs to survive. Rocking the glam look with smouldering eye liner, messy short hair and killer heels, this only amplifies her femininity and assurance in a male dominated world (and genre) that doesn't hold her back at all.
Beckinsale is the next in a recent surge of women who get to headline a film and showcase a character who is just as bad-ass, kick-ass and hot-ass as much as any male action star equivalent out there today.
Her Lindy has a lifetime of survial and combat skills (and cheeky sass) at her disposal, living as the ultimate adrenalin junkie to take her mind away from violence. She's got her own certain skills that could rival Bryan Mills, even if she talks more with her fists than anything else. Beckinsale gives this her all, and looks brilliant playing her role on the edge.
Director Tanya Wexler has a limited resume since 2017, but she doesn't take any risks or attempt to create anything special here; she knows what story she wants to tell, what sort of quirky characters to use and how to deliver action that doesn't become comparable to other films in the genre on a more practical level of stunt and fight choreography.
A supporting cast including Bobby Canavale, Jai Courtney, David Bradley, Laverne Cox may play textbook characters in an action story (the good cop, the bad cop, the boyfriend, the crime lord) but they are entertaining enough to play against Beckinsale and give her something to work with and drive her character forward playing on an emotional and volatile level.
Running at a very easy 85min with no time wasted on deep, meaningful exposition or back-story except a brief entertaining flashback narrated by one Susan Sarandon who also helps tease a potential franchise-building sequel, Jolt throws you right into an established world and established character knowing just what it wants to deliver.
Drenched in moody lighting and camera shots that mirror the synth-rock score by Dominic Lewis, Wexler wants to create a cool looking and cool sounding film that evokes the cool character we are spending time with. With a gentle blend of tongue-in-cheek humour (throwing babies around a maternity ward to avoid firing a gun, for example?) and restraint on what could have been OTT gore and violence, there is a good balance here to be enjoyable and an easy weekend popcorn flick that doesn't require much brain power to follow.
A solid, safe and entertaining action romp with a decent cast, and a kick-ass Kate Beckinsale leading the way with a big old...jolt.
'Jolt' is a co-production between Millennium Media and Amazon Studios