Jolt (2021)
Jolt (2021)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: July 23rd, 2021 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Tanya Wexler Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Jai Courtney, Bobby Cannavale, Stanley Tucci, Laverne Cox, Ori Pfeffer, David Bradley, Sophie Sanderson, Susan Sarandon

 


 

“M

ost of the time, Lindy seems quite normal,” explains the narrator (an unseen woman who sounds an awful lot like Susan Sarandon). “When people do bad things, Lindy cannot control herself.” The speaker continues to detail that the poor little girl never got the love she needed from her distant parents; instead, she got angrier and angrier, and her very unique, very specific condition, eventually diagnosed as intermittent explosive disorder (an “impulse control problem”), worsens. In order to survive, she’s isolated from others and turned into a human lab rat, as the high level of cortisol in her system makes her a scientific wonder, faster and stronger than most people – as well as extremely volatile.

Fortunately, a solution is devised (a cutting edge, avant-garde treatment): by jolting herself with a custom, handheld device gripped in her left hand at all times and linked to electrodes spread across her torso, Lindy Lewis (Kate Beckinsale) can temporarily shock herself into submission. It doesn’t alleviate her continuous, vengeful visions about brutal, bloody acts of retribution against irritable people (from a rude customer to a snippy waitress to her charming dinner date [Jai Courtney as accountant Justin] to her nervous psychiatrist [Stanley Tucci as Ivan Munchin]), but it does get her through the day. And when her doc suggests that she repeatedly go out and immerse herself amid everyday people to test her limitations, she discovers something new: despite generally hating everyone, she quite enjoys her time with Justin. But a mysterious act of violence inspires Lindy to let go of restraint and unleash her rage-filled, animalistic side.

With this strangely superhero-like setup (something of a variation on the Hulk), “Jolt” establishes a bizarre, rushed, terribly confused vibe. Boasting an introduction reminiscent of “Sucker Punch,” paired with flimsy character development and snarky dialogue, the picture paints unconvincing personas wrapped up in an outlandish plot. It’s quite evident from the editing style, the rebellious music, frenetic camerawork, and the way the leads behave that the premise is of little consequence; cool cars, tame sex, and fantasy bloodshed are the priorities for this fast-paced, nearly cartoonish thriller. “I hurt people.”

Detectives Vicars (Bobby Cannavale) and Nevin (Laverne Cox) round out a surprisingly small cast, allowing Lindy to focus on reckless driving, blurting out lewd one-liners, beating brutes senseless, and torturing mob bosses. Unfortunately, none of it is even remotely believable. She may have nearly superhuman strength and resilience, but it never appears as if that’s the case; instead, scenes cut around Beckinsale’s obvious inability to do real martial arts stunts, while seemingly deadly or dangerous scenarios transition quirkily into jokes, action, or additional weirdness. “You’re not normal.”

Although the cinematic combination of an invincible heroine, one-dimensionally evil villains, and unremitting revenge ploys should work, nothing comes together with clear harmony; every element battles against one another, as if a dozen disparate writers contributed to the script. Even with the occasional sincere exchange or two, “Jolt” insists on being hopelessly unrealistic from beginning to end; none of it can be taken seriously (and it’s a bit too grave for a good laugh). And perhaps most unexpected of all is that the savagery is largely toothless, with much of the violence occurring either offscreen or in the shadows. The conclusion maintains the unsuitable levity and impotence, reenforcing the insignificance and simplicity of Lindy’s journey; there are no consequences for anyone’s actions, nor are there precise resolutions for the protagonist’s situation.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10