Violent revenge thrillers come and go as they please, and most never normally end up being more than trashy B-list flicks (see Steven Seagal’s entire filmography). Killing Joan holds much promise on paper as being an exception, with an eye-catching blend of Death Note and The Crow. It quickly becomes clear however that Todd Bartoo’s interesting premise never takes off. This crow has had its wings clipped.
Joan (Jamie Bernadette) is a whisky glugging, no-nonsense mob enforcer who leads a motley crew of reprobates that turn on her on the orders of her boss, Frank (David Carey Foster). Inexplicably, Joan defies death and wanders the earth looking for revenge against her murderers, a revenge-driven mission not supported by her ex Anthony (Teo Celigo). She sets about her attackers using her newfound superpower of producing wispy smoke that makes her enemies stagger and occasionally fall over. Terrifying.
Bernadette’s central performance being an exception, nothing about Killing Joan raises an eyebrow or elicits a morsel of admiration. The story is so simple in its premise and manages to keep this simplicity for much of the running time, but by the end, so much bewildering nonsense has occurred that you end up losing interest in the outcome.
A lot of the dialogue is banal and predictable. Worse, much of it is delivered very awkwardly, especially in the early scenes and during Frank’s first appearance. It just sounds completely off from how such lines should hear, as if the actors don’t really know themselves how they are meant to be feeling. Then there is one line in Frank’s office about an hour in that makes you laugh in disbelief of how unprovoked, out of place and stupid It sounds. You’ll know it when you hear it.
There are some typically chronic features of a cheaply made action movie. The camera will not stop shaking - perhaps the cinematographer is always so frightened by Joan’s benevolent fury that they are reduced to a quivering wreck. The visuals also leave much to be desired. This is most infuriating towards the end when Killing Joan suddenly gets very CGI happy like they found some extra budget towards the end of filming and decided to burn through it. Even the fight sequences aren’t that great, the attack on Joan being the only one feeling anything close to intense.
There is some comment about femininity to be made in how Joan is markedly different to every other woman in the film, but it is underdeveloped and never emerges from the shadows of the movie’s poor execution. A good enough idea, and nothing more. Its appalling script is the catalyst for the rest of the film’s disappointments.
KILLING JOAN / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: TODD BARTOO / STARRING: JAMIE BERNADETTE, TEO CELIGO, ERIK AUDE, DAVID CAREY FOSTER, DANIEL GARDNER / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 3RD (US), UK (TBC)
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10