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Directed by Tanya Wexler
Written by Scott Wascha
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Jai Courtney and Stanley Tucci
Classification R; 91 minutes
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video starting July 23
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie quite like Jolt. At once a revenge thriller, a dark comedy, a sci-fi actioner, and a John Wick-ian shoot-’em-up (the second of those in as many weeks), Jolt is a perplexing mix-up of genre and intentions. From one scene to the next, I had no real understanding of where the film might go next – but instead of anticipating the unpredictable, I came to quickly dread the arbitrariness.
Opening with one long uninterrupted barf of narrated exposition, Jolt introduces us to Lindy (Kate Beckinsale), whose chemical imbalance leaves her with serious anger-management issues. After being ostracized, institutionalized, recruited and then kicked out of the armed forces, Lindy ekes out a volatile life as a bouncer. But she’s trying her best, and an experimental electroshock treatment developed by her pseudo-doctor (Stanley Tucci) keeps Lindy’s rage mostly in check.
So much so that, after meeting the man of her dreams (Jai Courtney), Lindy feels that she’s finally on track to living a normal existence (even if her apartment is one of those only-in-the-over-stylized-movies abode that is backlit by a giant neon sign and contains no logical means of sustaining life). But then a shocking murder rearranges Lindy’s life, and she goes on a brutal quest for vengeance.
I could try to detail what happens next, but I’m less concerned with divulging spoilers than I am in attempting, and failing, to convey just how what-the-heck Jolt’s many storytelling and aesthetic choices are. Stuff certainly happens in first-time writer Scott Wascha’s script – there are corporate bad guys, smug torture specialists, wacky bickering cops, underground fight clubs – but to what end, I’m honestly at a loss. The same bafflement surrounds Tanya Wexler’s direction, which sometimes aims for high camp, sometimes for B-movie carnage, never for coherence of vision.
Beckinsale can make the best out of confusing, and confused, circumstances, as she proved the many times she had to slide herself into the Underworld franchise’s skin-tight leather catsuits. But her kick-butt charms prove futile against Jolt’s many, many, many odd and ultimately off-putting instincts.
I was, however, this close to half-recommending Jolt for audiences exhausted by the mainstream predictability of, say, Black Widow. But then Wascha and Wexler decide to end their film on the most slap-your-face moment of franchise overreaching that I’ve ever seen committed to the screen. It has something to do with Susan Sarandon, who pops up in the film’s trailer but whose real purpose here is rage-inducing. So much so that I needed a jolt or two of my own to calm down. It. Didn’t. Work.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.