Ever since Keanu Reeves turned John Wick into a box office phenomenon, we've gotten a succession of movies in which big stars go on stylishly-photographed sprees of violent mayhem. Think Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, Jennifer Garner in Peppermint, and Bob Odenkirk in Nobody. Now Kate Beckinsale gets her turn with Jolt. No one will ever mistake this for high art, but it's sassy, funny, and action-packed.
Beckinsale plays Lindy, a woman diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, a real diagnosis in which people are prone to sudden outbursts, some of which can be violent. (The film exaggerates IED slightly.) Even the most minor of annoyances will cause her to become aggressive, including having a snooty waitress at a restaurant. The only thing keeping her in check is a special vest she wears, designed by psychiatrist Dr. Munchin (Stanley Tucci). All she has to do is press a button when agitated and her body will receive an electric shock to subdue the impulse.
Munchin has been encouraging Lindy to work on her social life as part of therapy. She reluctantly goes out on a date with Justin (Jai Courtney). To her surprise, he's incredibly charming. More importantly, he shares some of her misanthropy. They get hot and heavy quickly, making her think for the first time in her life that she might be capable of normalcy. When Justin is murdered, though, Lindy decides that unleashing her full fury to avenge him is the only option she has for dealing with grief. As she begins pursuing leads that suggest Justin was wrapped up with a shady criminal figure, two detectives (Bobby Canavale and Laverne Cox) seek to prevent her from harming anyone.
There's not much to Jolt story-wise after that. Lindy mostly goes on a rampage, attempting to get close to the guy she believes is responsible for her boyfriend's demise and decimating anyone who stands in her way. Director Tanya Wexler (Buffaloed) and writer Scott Wascha try to throw in a third-act wrinkle, but anyone who has had even a semi-steady diet of action flicks will see where things are going long before the film itself gets there. The story's destination is pretty predictable.
Such familiarity doesn't dampen the fun, though. Wexler shoots the action scenes with flair, and the screenplay is full of witty moments. Everyone in this movie has a sarcastic attitude, so there are plenty of laughs in watching them insult, mock, or needle each other. Beckinsale is especially appealing, investing Lindy with a hilariously pissed-off quality. She's angry about her condition, and she makes no bones about letting that be known via sardonic comments. Watching her quip and kill her way to the top is never less than wickedly entertaining.
Jolt has no overt message, although it wouldn't be inaccurate to say it has a feminist quality. Lindy repeatedly encounters burly, hostile men who underestimate her ability to overpower them. Of course, they come to regret that decision. It's become a modern cliché – one that's possibly a little misogynist – to have female action heroes who are “tough, but sexy.” This movie upends that idea by giving Lindy the original twist of a disorder that she can't control but which she definitely can use to her advantage. In other words, she's shrewd above all else. Thanks to Beckinsale's spot-on performance as the character, I hope we get the sequel that Jolt's ending sets up.
out of four
Jolt is rated R for strong violence, sexual content, and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.