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"Jolt" 4K Review

 It's been a while since Kate Beckinsale has made an action flick. Her last Underworld entry, Underworld: Blood Wars, was five years ago and I don't recall seeing it; probably skipped it after the abomination which was Underworld: Awakening in 2012. I wasn't even aware she had a new movie out until the missus mentioned Jolt, which is not about the awesome Eighties cola with twice the caffeine of puny Pepsi or Coke, the latest Amazon Prime Original title. 

She stars as Lindy, a woman who as a child was diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder - which is a real psychological condition where the person has violent outbursts, not that they actually explode like the Marvel Comics supervillain Nitro. The only thing that can keep her rages in check is an electrode vest that she uses to shock herself into a state of lesser anger.

 Encouraged by her shrink, and the designer of the vest, Dr. Munchin (Stanley Tucci), to try and form some human connections to see if perhaps some love could chill her out, she goes on a date with Justin (Jai Courtney), an accountant who doesn't seem terrified of her skittish demeanor and charms her. After they hook up after their second date, Lindy is feeling better about life and controlling her temper than she's ever been. 

So it's pretty inconvenient that Justin turns up dead the next night they were supposed to get together. The police detectives on the case (Bobby Cannavale and Laverne Cox) don't think she's involved, but when she steals evidence from the police station, they're hot in pursuit of her as she sets out on her rampage to avenge her lover's death, finding herself getting close to some untouchable top dogs.

 Jolt squarely falls into the Big Dumb Noisy Fun genre. While its premise has been compared to the Jason Statham Crank films, it's just your basic action revenge flick (a la John Wick) with a mix of black comedy (her fantasies of brutally beating people are Grand Guignol) and a gender twist. People who want to bark about how implausible it is for even a rage-enhanced woman to beat up as many guys as she does are MISSING ALL THE POINTS. (I want to be there when they find out Hogwarts isn't a real school they can go to.)

What's unrealistic is the Generic American (or Maybe European) City atmosphere Jolt  has like how the police department logo just says "POLICE DEPARTMENT" without a city name, the lack of any recognizable chain stores or brand logos and how most of the streets look like backlots. The skyline shots aren't familiar either. (It was shot in Sofia, Bulgaria.) But what it does have is some slick neon-drenched style and the HDR cinematography gives some good highlight pop to the image.

 But even by the loose standards for this sort of movie, in the last 10 minutes or so the plot's wheels suddenly come off as we learn What's Really Been Going On and then the coda seems to be trying to set this up as a franchise. Come on, Hollyweird - not everything needs to be a series. Except John Wick. That can keep going forever (or until it becomes a clown show like F9 was). 

Beckinsale is fun and looks great at 47 years old (She turns 48 tomorrow.) Tucci is his usual fun self and even Courtney, whom I usually dislike, fills the bill until the plot sells him out. Director Tanya Wexler (niece of legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler and half-sister to Daryl Hannah!) does a respectable job of keeping the performances and action humming along and the script by newcomer Scott Wascha manages to not be too cliched, though why the bad guys have a lone man standing in the middle of a large courtyard as a receptionist may take style a tad far.

 Clocking in at a tidy 90 minutes, Jolt may not be much more than a fizzy triffle with a flat aftertaste, but while you're imbibing its caffeinated aesthetic, it's generally satisying.

Score: 6/10.  Catch it on Amazon Prime.

"Point of No Return" Blu-ray Review

Whenever a foreign film has crossover success with American audiences, an English-language remake is general ordered up because "Muricans don't wanna read subtitles and don't like foreigners" or so Hollyweird feels. Such was the case with Luc Besson's 1990 hot babe assassin flick La Femme Nikita (or just Nikita outside America, same as how Besson's follow-up, Leon, was called The Professional here) which was rapidly remade as 1993's Point of No Return as a near carbon copy.

 Bridget Fonda ('memba when she was in everything in the Nineties?) stars as Maggie, a violent junkie who murders a policeman during a botched robbery in the opening scene. Sentenced to death, she is immediately executed by lethal injection (which is the most unrealistic thing about this movie considering even animals like the Night Stalker, who was given 19 death sentences only died after 24 years on Death Row of CANCER). But she then wakes up in a white room and is informed by Gabriel Byrne's "Bob" that her death and funeral were staged and she has been recruited to become an assassin for an unspecified organization. If she refuses to cooperate, well, she will end up occupying the empty casket she's supposed to be in.

 Being the rebellious sort, she doesn't take the training seriously, constantly acting out until Bob makes it abundantly clear that if she doesn't get her act together pronto, his superior, Kaufman (Miguel Ferrar), will more than happily put her six feet underground. This scares her straight and she begs the agency's glamorous etiquette tutor Amanda (Anne Bancroft) to help her change. Cut to six months later and the feral black-haired Maggie has transformed into a classy refined woman who looks like Nineties-era Bridget Fonda. 

To celebrate her graduation, Bob takes her to a swanky Washington D.C. restaurant and orders champagne and gives her a gift. But when she opens it, it contains a large loaded gun and spare mag and she's told this is her final test: Go to an upper level, kill a VIP, then go to a bathroom and escape via a window to where a car will pick her up. After she kills the target and his bodyguard, she discovers the bathroom window is bricked up, trapping her. She manages to escape and return to base, clearly feeling betrayed, but Bob informs her that her passing the rigged test means she's ready for the field. 

Outfitted with a new identity as Claudia, a computer sales rep from Chicago, she's dispatched to Venice, CA to await orders. She immediately falls in love with J.P. (Dermot Mulroney), her apartment manager. He's a Sensitive Artistic Type photographer and she looks like Bridget Fonda, so they immediately start shacking up. But her secret life starts to intrude as she's sent on missions, raising suspicions with J.P. Can a reformed murderer turned assassin balance career and romance?

Point of No Return was never a great movie because, to be honest, neither is La Femme Nikita and thus minus Besson's visual style - director John Badham (Blue Thunder, WarGames, Saturday Night Fever) is more workmanlike - the fundamental flaws of the original weigh down the remake. We meet Maggie/Nikita as a drugged-out killer, her Pygmalion transformation and whether she has changed or her original killer nature has merely been papered over is oddly never really explored. For all the French lessons and refinement Amanda teaches Maggie, the first time she goes grocery shopping, she acts as if she'd never seen a supermarket before or knew how much food a person eats. 

Too many of the key action sequences are almost shot-for-shot copypastas of the original movie, minus the flair, though the movie's third act of a mission that goes disastrously wrong is actually a vast improvement over the original's and it's amusing to see Harvey Keitel's "cleaner" (originally played by Jean Reno who would go on to revise the character in Leon) a year before he'd play cleaner Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction

As far as the Blu-ray goes, it's a so-so affair. The transfer is adequate, but lacking in shadow detail and contrast. It has a filmic grain structure and wasn't overly scrubbed  with DNR, but edge-enhancement is obvious in a halo at the top and bottom next to the letterbox bars. Fortunately, it doesn't manifest too often around the image area itself. It's just a catalog title that didn't merit going the extra mile. Audio is worse with a thin, unbalanced mix with little surround activity and the TV cop show-grade overwrought musical score way too loud. Dialog doesn't get buried, but it's dodgy. 

As far as extras, the only one is the theatrical trailer. As said, this isn't a beloved titles getting the works.

While Point of No Return isn't the worst remake of La Femme Nikita - that dishonor goes to the Hong Kong version, Black Cat -it's just blah because the second act's plot of mushy puppy love with intermittent calls to work is slow and J.P.'s suspicions aren't really handled well. The 2010-2013 CW series Nikita starring Maggie Q (who herself made a clearly Nikita-inspired Hong Kong movie called Naked Weapon) was a better handling of the material as it was disconnected from the structure of the source. (I never watched the 1997-2001 USA Network take because the pilot thoroughly unimpressed me and radically changed the premise.) 

If you're interested in the premise, it's worth a rainy afternoon watch, but this Blu-ray doesn't really merit purchasing for a collection.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable. 

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