VOD film review: Jolt
James R | On 23, Jul 2021
Director: Tanya Wexler
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Jai Courtney, Stanley Tucci
Where to watch Jolt online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Intermittent explosive disorder. Those are the words given to the condition that Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) is struggling with in Jolt, Amazon’s latest acquisition. It’s a long-winded way of saying that she gets angry quickly – and when she gets angry, she has violent tendencies. After years of not very helpful parenting, a stint with the army and a range of experiments, she’s found a way to control her outbursts – by self-electrocuting using a wired vest developed by her therapist, Dr Munchin (Stanley Tucci).
If all this sounds implausible, that’s just the first act, which primarily consists of a lengthy voiceover explaining the implausible set-up – interspersed with montage of everyday scenarios that trigger Lindy’s rage. These range from cruel waiters and people man-spreading on the train to rude guys shouting needlessly at valets, and there’s something potentially interesting in that exploration of what level of anger is deemed socially acceptable in women – and ways in which people channel their own fury.
But Jolt isn’t interested in any of those ideas so richly tackled in, say, Jessica Jones. Rather, it uses its premise as an excuse for Lindy to snap and then beat people up. And so it is that she finds herself a nice boyfriend – Jai Courtney, in disarmingly cute mode – who helps her to calm down, only for him to be killed by the mob. Cue a rampage of revenge that’s framed like a journey of self-acceptance and cathartic retribution, but actually makes less and less sense the more you think about it.
From the constant use of neon lighting to the unusual tone that can’t decide whether to be funny or dark, it’s difficult to shake off the sense that Jolt is trying a little too hard. Scenes are frequently interrupted by flashes of violence that unfold in Lindy’s imagination, only for us to jump back to polite reality when her shock therapy kicks in – and that only adds to the feeling of tonal whiplash, which is complicated further by the arrival of dogged police officers Vicars and Nevin (Bobby Cannavale and Laverne Cox), who both seem to condemn and condone our protagonist and oscillate between being romantic interests, fierce physical opponents and unlikely comic relief.
Fortunately, though, the cast are all clearly having a ball, and Cannabale and Cox’s double-act does entertain, while Tucci elevates the underwhelming script to something generally whelming. Kate Beckinsale, meanwhile, is superb in the lead role, finding humanity, humour and heart in between the stunt work – the date scenes between her and Courtney are genuinely charming, and director Tanya Wexler (who helmed the entertaining and deceptively pointed rom-com Hysteria) does give her the space to round out Lindy’s character. It’s a shame, then, that the rest of the film can’t live up to those moments and Beckinsale’s performance. The result is an electric showcase for an often underused and overlooked actor, but those sparks are, sadly, all too intermittent.
Jolt is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.