A glance at Kate Beckinsale’s bitingly funny Instagram account shows a sharp comedic talent at play that Hollywood has barely registered. Except in Jolt, a revenge action movie marketed as a knock-off Atomic Blonde, that’s closer to Jason Statham-fronted romp Crank.
Jolt has all the charge of a bombastic B movie: excessive killing and a dumb, fun plot undercut with dry, quick-witted humour. Beckinsale plays Lindy, who suffers from an “Intermittent Explosive Disorder”. Through a grainy, exposition-heavy intro, we learn that Lindy has inexplicably carried this hyper-rage since childhood. Any time someone contradicts her morals, be it stealing her cake or trash-talking her date, Lindy responds with uncontrollable violence. Only a self-inflicted electric shock to the brain can tame her bone-breaking tendencies.
Yet Lindy’s world is a lonely one, and so with some encouragement from her back alley shrink Dr. Munchin (Stanley Tucci) reluctantly joins the dating world. Beckinsale’s back-and-forth with an effortlessly warm Tucci is delightful, and culminates in a giddy post-coital tell-all after Lindy lands affable accountant Justin (Jai Courtney). When the perfect romance with her new beau ends in disaster, Lindy turns her powers towards taking down new enemies. A by-the-book revenge film ensues, but with just enough snap to keep things engaging.
For one, Beckinsale is given an excellent cast to bounce off. Muddled into the case are two detectives played by Laverne Cox and Bobby Cannavale, who match the actor’s crisp one-liners note for note. In a rare romantic role, The Suicide Squad’s Courtney is also memorable as a honeyed boy-next-door with humble charms.
The plot itself is, at times, predictable. Twists and reveals fall limply with no enthusiastic motive behind them. Feminist flourishes are shoehorned into Lindy’s personality to inflate her presence as a woman in a man’s world. As she strides across a bustling “New York” sidewalk (the film is plainly shot in London, with locations including the Tate Modern) the lyrics “I don’t need a man, I need a manicure” roar over the frame.
This is Jolt’s biggest flaw. Beckinsale, who starred in the first Underworld film almost 20 years ago, is a seasoned action performer. Her skillset already speaks for itself as she pulls off one complicated fight sequence after another. By surrounding her with this new, loud feminist fanfare, the film is trying to market Beckinsale to an audience that is already sold on her.
The film is at its best when it keeps things simple. Big-budget setpieces, pared-down dialogue and some truly gleeful soundbites hit hardest when left alone to their own devices. Visually Jolt is chaotic, with overworked production design and effects chucked at the film like candy-coloured confetti. However it all translates in a furied energy that’s far more commendable than any clumsy play on #MeToo heroism.
Beckinsale has proven herself to be a viable, enthusiastic blockbuster star with precise comedic timing. She deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Stathams of this world without being made to parade her gender around.
- Director: Tanya Wexler
- Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Jai Courtney, Stanley Tucci
- Release date: July 23 (Amazon Prime Video)