Jolt: Out of Juice, by Tyler Smith
Tanya Wexler’s Jolt stars Kate Beckinsale as Lindy, a woman with clinically diagnosed impulse control issues. Ever since she was a little girl, when something bothered her, she would react violently. After years of attempting to channel this negative energy into something useful – like military service – she eventually undergoes experimental treatment to keep it at bay. Through the use of electrodes, she can give herself a shock whenever she feels herself about to lose control. Her condition has forced her to stay socially isolated, but this changes when she meets a charming guy who accepts her for who she is. When he is murdered, however, Lindy springs into action, utilizing her temper and her training to find the killer.
It is a stylish revenge plot with a goofy twist. It is clearly meant to capture the John Wick fanbase through its use of ultraviolence and clever world-building. It has a fine cast, featuring Stanley Tucci, Jai Courtney, Laverne Cox, Bobby Cannavale, and the always-dependable David Bradley. It has all the creative elements in place to be a sturdy, enjoyable movie.
And I hated it. I hated it more than I have hated any movie in years. After sitting through the film’s agonizing 90-minute runtime, I can safely say that Jolt is easily one of my least favorite movies ever. Roger Ebert’s epic pan of Rob Reiner’s North always felt like a bit much to me, but I think I get it now. There are just some movies that disappoint on every level, seemingly always making the wrong choice when the right one would be so much simpler.
I hate the film’s script. Not only its derivative, “hipster revenge” story, but its awful, glib dialogue. The characters are all so distant and disaffected, desperately trying to convey their inherent coolness. It’s like somebody trying to mimic the 1990s Quentin Tarantino writing style without ever understanding why or how he arrived there. None of the dialogue – be it sarcastic or serious – has any weight behind it, making it all feel like hip gibberish.
I hate the action. Each sequence begins the same; Lindy brazenly walks into a dangerous situation and a threatening person underestimates her. Unphased, she then calmly explains that she is not to be trifled with. Nobody listens and she kicks their ass. This is repeated over and over again, and is meant to bolster our heroine’s cred as an action hero – and possibly pay perfunctory lip service to modern feminism – but all it really does is lower the stakes. Lindy is nigh-indestructible and she knows it. What’s more; she’s casual about it, which only serves to make everything that much less urgent.
I hate the characters. Each character is motivated less by actual human needs and desires and more by the dictates of the script. This is a film of archetypes, which can be effective if done in a tongue-in-cheek way, as in Hans Petter Moland’s Cold Pursuit. Here, though, there is no originality, nor really any self-awareness, resulting in characters playing out their predetermined roles as though they were little more than programmed robots. With a cast this stellar, it is a crime to give them so little to do.
Certainly, Tanya Wexler’s direction is distinct. She has a strong visual sense and a nice eye for color. But her inability to redeem such shoddy material is a strike against her, as is her painfully on-the-nose musical choices. She brings style to the table, sure, but little else, ultimately putting out an overly-familiar story that neither deepens nor expands on its genre. It merely exists without ever attempting to justify that fact.
Jolt is a waste of time, and not just mine. It is a waste of a raw-but-talented director’s time, an overqualified cast’s time, and the audience’s time. It does nothing we haven’t seen before but is so convinced of its own vitality that it never questions itself. Like its main character, the film confidently charges full steam ahead, but, unlike her, without any ability to back it up.