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Review: Jolt – “Beckinsale is, quite simply, the reason to watch this film”

Kate Beckinsale in Jolt. Photo credit: Simon Varsano

Female action stars have become more prevalent in recent years, but even if you are in superhero costume, they still are more the exception than the rule.  For every Charlize Theron, there are five Liam Neeson types.  There’s one Captain Marvel or Black Widow film amongst many of their male Avenger’s counterparts.  But on the heels of the recent female-led movie Gunpowder Milkshake, not to mention Black Widow herself, Kate Beckinsale, an icon of the action genre for the Underworld Series, introduces a new hero, in Amazon’s newest release, Jolt.

Beckinsale plays Lindy, a quick-witted, former nightclub bouncer who has an impulse control problem.  Though it’s a bit more than that.  In her childhood, Lindy is diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, a condition that means when she gets angry, she gets terribly violent.  Her life has been a combination of experimentation to try and cure the impulses and turns in the military to try and control them.  With nothing working, and an overwhelming need to be ‘normal,’ Lindy becomes a patient of psychiatrist Dr. Munchin (Stanely Tucci) who outfits her with a vest that Lindy can activate to deliver electric shocks to herself.  It’s the only thing that will ‘jolt’ her out of her impending violent rages, which she imagines in vivid detail.

On the advice of Munchin, who feels that developing deeper human connections may help Lindy, she attempts to go out on a date where she meets the charming Justin (Jai Courtney).  Their connection is instant, and finding out about her condition doesn’t scare him away.  He’s understanding, kind, and makes Lindy feel like she can relax, finding that small slice of normalcy she has been yearning for.  But before they can even go on their third date, Lindy finds out that Justin, an unassuming accountant, has been murdered.  Now with two police detectives (played by Laverne Cox and Bobby Cannavale) on her tail, she is on a mission to avenge Justin’s untimely death and perhaps finally embrace the power her disorder bestows upon her.

Written by Scott Wascha and directed by Tanya Wexler (Hysteria, Buffaloed), Jolt is an action movie that is at times equally comedic, and ridiculous.  I mean this is a film that includes an action sequence that involves throwing newborn babies around a hospital nursery, and a billionaire villain that randomly likes to hang from a ceiling for no explained reason.  Yet some of Lindy’s more sarcastic, acerbic moments of humour really do work, and there are clever aspects to Wascha’s script (if we can forgive the fact that in order to have Lindy function as a formidable action character they felt the need to give her a mental disorder – but that could be an entirely different article.)

Jolt does follow the formula of the “John Wick” model of revenge action movie, but instead of losing a puppy, Lindy loses her date.  The action sequences are fewer than Wick, giving one more breaks from the violence than that film provides.  In fact, the most gorily violent moments happen mostly in what Lindy visualizes herself doing before she zaps herself back to reality.  Though for any woman who has ever imagined hitting the ‘manspreader’ on the subway or making the guy who belittled and underestimated you pay (and who of us haven’t?) there will be a lot to like about Lindy and the way she sees the world.

And without Kate Beckinsale as Lindy, it’s easy to say that Jolt wouldn’t be able to surpass its shortcomings.  The filmmakers lucked out in getting the established action star for this role.  Her attitude, her style (props to the hair and wardrobe department), and in fact her entire portrayal of this flawed yet resilient woman is on point here.  The scenes in which she shares banter with Stanley Tucci are particularly delightful.  Beckinsale is, quite simply, the reason to watch this film.

There are enough good points to Jolt to save it from being a wasted effort.  It’s the perfect COVID-era film to enjoy on a rainy weekend afternoon with a bowl of popcorn and beverage of choice.  Beckinsale is enough to keep things entertaining even when some of the more over-the-top elements are taking over, or if you’re bothered that they’re trying (poorly) to disguise London as an American city (why can’t she just be in London?).  Just don’t think about it too much.  Overall, I loved Lindy’s character more than I loved Jolt as a whole.  I’d truly enjoy seeing her character in an ‘Atomic Blonde‘ type setting, and certainly the conclusion of the film leaves itself open to explore Lindy’s talents to their fullest in this way.  If this is the start of Lindy’s cinematic journey I’d be more than along for the ride… you could even say it might be ‘electric.’

Jolt is available on Amazon Prime starting July 23, 2021.

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