Uncork’d Entertainment’s Killing Joan combines the focused supernatural revenge of The Crow and the gritty feel of Death Wish, infusing it with the righteous power of an ass-kicking, take-no-shit alpha female.
Joan (Jamie Bernadette, All Girl’s Weekend, I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu) is an enforcer known for her ruthless tactics and wild abandon. After she is double crossed by her boss and left for dead, she becomes a vengeful spirit and is doomed to wander the Earth until she is able to take down the men that attacked her.
Joan works on a short fuse, dangerously blasting through her assigned shakedowns. She careens from one job to the next while entangling her personal affairs – including some unfinished business with her ex-boyfriend, Anthony (Teo Celigo), a good-natured youth counselor.
Even when Joan is kicking ass and taking names as an enforcer, she has a zero-tolerance policy for macho posturing. She is a protector at heart. This communicates the overall journey of the film; while her methods are fueled by anger, Joan’s desire to do the right thing is her strongest quality.
As a modern exploitation film, it’s surprisingly bloodless. This doesn’t necessarily alter the affect of the movie – you don’t need buckets of blood for a revenge film – but it does lower the stakes for the dramatic scene in which Joan is attacked. It leaves her condition rather ambiguous in a time when we should genuinely fear for her life.
Bernadette as the titular Joan has intensity, but she lacks the bite to truly sell her character’s inherent violence. She seems more sardonic than aggressive, although she perfects that world-weary quality that the audience can completely relate to. Her reckless actions seem to come from a deep-seated apathy rather than a personal desire to cause harm.
The source of Joan’s afterlife upgrade is unclear – she is imbued with powers of shadow manipulation, but we don’t get a clear sense of why, or how, or what the limitations are. Early on, it’s established that she can only move through darkness, but that rule isn’t strict in its execution. Perhaps as she grows stronger, she moves past that restriction? If so, we’re missing the step that directly addresses that.
Overall, Killing Joan is a clever and compelling concept, but it’s a bit unpolished. The editing is, at times, a tad choppy, and the fight scenes are missing the commitment to fully sell them. That being said, I am curious to see what comes next from writer/director Todd Bartoo. Killing Joan is an earnest effort that shows a lot of potential as Bartoo’s first feature.
With creatively incorporated visual effects by Paul Lada (Prometheus, Harry Potter, Pacific Rim Uprising), the cast includes Erik Aude, David Carey Foster, Katarina Leigh Waters, Erin O’Brien and Daniel Gardner. Killing Joan is available digitally on April 3rd and comes to DVD July 10th.
Check out the trailer and poster below!
For more revenge films with a strong female lead, check out this trailer for the aptly titled Revenge.