Jolt Synopsis: Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) is a bouncer with a slightly murderous anger-management problem that she controls with the help of an electrode-lined vest to shock herself back to normalcy whenever she gets homicidal. After the first guy she’s ever fallen for is murdered (Jai Courtney), she goes on a revenge-fueled rampage to find the killer while the cops pursue her as their chief suspect.
In an era where mainstream action stars are few and far between, Kate Beckinsale doesn’t get enough credit for her sturdy presence in the genre. Beckinsale’s self-assured charisma and dramatic heft capably bolster whatever role she embodies. From spearheading the dopey Underworld franchise to elevating her paper-thin part in the Total Recall remake, Beckinsale always brings her A-game even if the material lies far below her capabilities.
Beckinsale continues her action star crusade with Jolt, a high-concept take on the unrelenting rage that defines our typical heroes. As a woman with an uncontrollable compulsion for violently righting wrongs, Beckinsale steals the show as usual, but the static film around her does little to match her talents.
Jolt certainly aims for frenetic energy. Director Tanya Wexler and first-time screenwriter Scott Wascha attempt to mix their formulaic base with an infusion of busy flourishes, a decision that works far better in practice than execution. Wexler’s first foray into actioners lacks the dynamic craft to exhibit her playful ideas. Loud car chases and brutal brawls attempt to conjure constant excitement, yet Wexler’s stylistic deviations feel like played-out odes to far superior actioners (John Wick wants its neon-soaked color scheme back). Added with a medley of peppy song choices, CGI blood spurts, and chaotic cut-away dream sequences, Jolt merely creates the illusion of style. The film’s drab lighting and shaky handheld framing choices are too standard-issue to match the premise’s vivacious spirit.
Wascha’s script is similarly ineffective. I can see where the writer intends his effort to be a spirited change-up from the genre’s testosterone-fueled trappings, including several bitting gags and winking nods that deter from the audience’s hard-wired expectations. These self-aware touches lack the perspective or sharp intellect to matter that much, leaving audiences with your typical run-of-the-mill action formula. The narrative moves aimlessly from one shoot-out to the next, while the characters’ lack of meaningful textures prevents much in terms of attachment. Add in a handful of predictable third-act plot twists, Jolt exists in the heart of cliche action movie territory.
Jolt would be a complete misfire without Beckinsale’s dynamic talents. As the relentlessly tough yet emotionally sincere protagonist, Beckinsale assured performance imbues Lindy’s persona with charm and gravity. Through every formulaic plot development and sleepy setpiece, Beckinsale’s dynamic presence consistently sparks life into the generic proceedings.
While too busy and relentless to truly bore, Jolt never manifests its intriguing premise past disposable actioner territory. If there’s any takeaway for audiences, Kate Beckinsale continues to be deserving of far better material.