Kate Beckinsale is a brilliant screen actor but somehow she’s never quite got the career she deserved. She got unlucky early on when two of the movies that should have made her a star; Pearl Harbour and Van Helsing, turned out to be terrible, so maybe things faltered because of this but hers should have been a filmography to rival Keira Knightly’s or Emily Blunt’s. As it is she has been resigned to the wife/girlfriend roles in films like Click, Absolutely Anything or Contraband in between headlining the Underworld action monster series like a low rent Milla Jovovich. I mean she should at least have been a low rent Charlize Theron. Only Much Ado About Nothing, Cold Comfort Farm, The Last Days of Disco, The Aviator and the excellent Love & Friendship shine out of her cinematic biog, showing what could have been.
Now we have Jolt which turned up, one might even suggest it was dumped, on Amazon Prime this weekend. Let’s be clear that this is an entertaining film but it absolutely wouldn’t be without Beckinsale’s performance, highlighting once again how beyond this derivative, underwritten chaff she should be.
Beckinsale plays Lindy, a woman who controls her overwhelming propensity for violence by giving herself electric shocks with a series of electrodes she keeps stuck to her torso for this very purpose. Spoilers; it doesn’t always stop her causing pain to others. The condition she suffers, called intermittent explosive disorder, surprisingly is real but the treatment is most certainly not. I worked in a traditional London cinema some years ago and there was a nylon carpet going up the stairs and leading into Screen One which resulted in me getting repeated static shocks from customers when they handed me their tickets to tear (I told you it was some years ago) so even with this tenuously related experience the idea that an electric shock would stop her getting annoyed, to me seems akin to preventing hunger with the scent of a roast dinner. Nope, this is a weak idea for a film with a weak film built around it. Also, speaking of London, this movie randomly seems to be set in and around a New York block located right by the Southbank of the Thames.
Anyway, Lindy meets a guy and the guy is then murdered by well connected mobsters sending her off on a mission to make those responsible for her not getting a fourth date pay for what they have done. It is a straight forward plot that tries in vain to get deeper as it heads toward its fumbled ending where Susan Sarandon walks in to set up the sequels like a red haired and stilettoed Nick Fury but the joy is in seeing Kate Beckinsale’s no nonsense approach to dealing with her vulnerabilities by kicking large men right in theirs. I can’t in earnest tell you that the script is great but Beckinsale delivers each line with the same skill as she lands each punch and you can’t help but want to go with her on this ridiculous crusade. I think this movie is actually going to get its desired sequel(s) and if it does it will only be because of one of the people involved.
The Ripley Factor:
So you’ve got the filmic cliche of the kick ass woman and then you’ve got the filmic cliche of the girl who’s main motivation is to make her relationship succeed because only this will bring her fulfilment. Beckinsale combines them, somehow managing to legitimise the latter as much as she conforms to the former.
Yes, Lindy is driven by her relationship with a man but why shouldn’t she be cross at potentially finding the one only for someone to put a bullet in his head? She is constantly underestimated by men (we know this to be true because the dialogue tells us so) and gets the better of all of them so there is nothing undermining in her endeavours. The film, which is directed by a woman Tanya Wexler, also doesn’t objectify her at all which it might have done in someone else’s hands, even in 2021.