Why am I reviewing two movies at once? Spoiler: because I found them both disappointing. That’s right—I expected more from both movies and didn’t really get into either as I had hoped. This won’t be a full review, as the movies are both new, and I don’t want to spoil it for people who maybe aren’t as picky as I am. (As always, with my reviews, YMMV—Your Mileage May Vary—you may not have the same experience as I.) Why would I be disappointed, you ask, with a pair of movies that feature Bruce “The Chin” Campbell, survivor of multiple Deadite movies and hero of S-Mart (“Be Smart, shop S-Mart!”); and Kate Beckinsale, black-haired (Whoops! Blonde here!) vampire lady in fashionable skin-tight pleather ruling over numerous Underworld characters—not to mention twin supporting casts with such actors as Stanley Tucci and Jai Courtney in the Kate movie and Michael Jai White in the Campbell movie?
Well, the movie setups should be roughly equivalent, according to the précis I read. For Black Friday: “A group of toy store employees must protect each other from a horde of parasite-infected shoppers.” Sounds pretty close to the Evil Dead movies, doesn’t it? And for Jolt: “Lindy is an acid-tongued woman with rage issues who controls her temper by shocking herself with an electrode vest. One day she makes a connection with Justin, who gives her hope for a shock-free future, but when he’s murdered she launches herself on a revenge-fueled rampage in pursuit of his killer.” Okay, that doesn’t really sound like the Underworld movies, but hey—it’s action-packed, right?
Okay, the précis are fairly accurate. In the Campbell movie, he’s the manager of a midwestern (I believe—it’s never made clear, though the head office seems to be in Schaumburg, IL) chain toy store, “I LOVE TOYS” with a toy bear in place of the “LOVE,” which is about to open late Thursday (Thanksgiving) or really early Friday for their Black Friday sale. The movie opens with a standard meteorite has crashed through the roof and employee gets too close scene—hey! Hasn’t this guy even heard of Alien?—and goes on to the credits over blurry scene of shoppers swarming. What looks like Alien-type drool over the left hand part of the swarming scene and a Sinatra clone singing “Have I got a Gift For You!,” as smarmy an innuendo as has been heard as a theme. So far, so good, eh?
It continues as in the usual zombie-type movie, except that here the zombies are, as the précis says, parasite-infected; we get a shot of a TV with an announcer telling people to stay away from the meteors that seem to have fallen everywhere. I’m not familiar with the cast aside from Campbell and White, but I think they all did a good job—the makeup is by Robert Kurtzman studios—with what is, by now, a too-familar scenario.
There are the usual interpersonal goings-on, and we learn way too much about some of the characters—but it’s no use getting too attached, because you never know who’s on the chopping block as far as being killed and/or zombi—oops, parasite-ified. We’ve got the usual pot-smoking slacker; the gung-ho, possibly gay (named Bruce, right?) ass-kissing assistant manager, the sedentary manager (Campbell) who loves and lives for his job, etc. There are horrific moments and comedic moments, but somehow it all doesn’t gell. It’s billed as a horror/sci-fi/comedy, but there’s nothing really new about any of it. Oh, it does its job, but if you’re even a casual watcher of this kind of movie, it’s kind of a lame re-do. And that’s what disappointed me.
Well, except for some of the action scenes, Beckinsale’s movie doesn’t resemble Underworld at all. She plays Lindy, a woman who’s had way too much cortisol coursing through her body since childhood, and it’s made her extremely volatile, prone to violence, as well as stronger and faster than the average bear. Normally, she would have to be kept away from other people for their sake, or maybe locked away in an institution, but her psychiatrist (Stanley Tucci) has invented a vest with a bunch of electrodes that connect to her skin with which she can shock herself with a handheld remote control when she feels a violent episode coming on. She has to shock herself a lot! (Parenthetic note here: an overload of cortisol, especially for years, doesn’t do that. It makes you prone to diabetes, and a whole lot of other not-so-good stuff. Just sayin’.) She has a number of careers over her lifetime, usually—like the military—involving some kind of violence, but she never lasts long in any career. Yet when she meets Justin, who’s an accountant, she finds someone for the first time ever, who she thinks she can live with. On their third date, she sleeps with him… but not too long after he leaves her apartment, she receives a visit from the cops, saying his body had been found in a dumpster with two bullet wounds to the head.
She is questioned by detectives Vickers (Bobby Cannavale) and Nevin (LaVerne Cox) as to her whereabouts. Their suspicions seem to be confirmed when she beats up Nevin and Vickers and runs out of the police station. She determines to find out who killed Justin—he mentioned he had a single client, Barry—and goes after Barry to see if he killed Justin. You can see how it’s going to develop from here. You’ve probably seen, for example, John Wick, with Keanu Reeves—but he depends a lot on guns (or knives, or pencils, ha!), whereas Lindy prefers hand-to-hand violence. Sometimes involving a battery to the ba… crotch. She works her way up, with a few setbacks, to the top of Justin’s particular pyramid, finding a surprise at the end. Susan Sarandon even has a short cameo, but curiously, not to much affect.
In spite of the attempts at comedy—Lindy’s psychiatrist keeps a gun in a drawer with which to greet her every time she shows up for an appointment—and the undoubted athleticism of Ms. Beckinsale, there’s nothing new in this movie. It’s just another revenge movie, and you’ve probably seen as many as I, from the two Get Carter movies (Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone) to John Wick, to Batman to… well, name your favourite(s). Even the twist ending was unsurprising. I’d kill for a surprising ending to a revenge movie… or maybe not exactly.
Comments? You can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!