Review: JETT Doesn’t Reach Supersonic Levels

FIRST IMPRESSION

Despite the efforts of its talented stars, Jett doesn't ever achieve greatness because of its messy (and frequently misogynistic) writing.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Jett, written and directed by creator Sebastian Gutierrez (Elizabeth Harvest) in its entirety, is a perfect example of what can go wrong if you give a single person too much creative control over a series. Despite all of the hints of greatness, throughout the first five episodes, Gutierrez never seems to be able to get a grasp of what he truly wants the show to be.

The eponymous protagonist, portrayed by Carla Gugino, is a master thief that has recently been released from prison. However, for most of the series, we see less of her acting as a thief and more of her acting as a criminal mastermind having other people doing the stealing. This is nowhere near as exciting as it would be to watch Gugino’s character get down and dirty. Granted, there are a few good heist scenes, but there is usually only one brief heist per hour-long episode.

Also frustrating is that the series does not seem to have a clear arc running through it. Typically, in a television show, there is a series arc, a season arc, an episode arc, and a few other arcs that can run between episodes, such as subplots. There seems to be very little logic or consistency to this show, as it only has the latter two categories.

Unlike other stories about a character who got out of the criminal underworld and gets pulled back in, such as John Wick, the series Jett fails because it does not give the protagonist a clear goal or motivation. One can assume that Jett’s motivation is to protect her daughter, but with the way the show is written, even that could be a stretch.

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Carla Gugino. Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg/CINEMAX.

The most annoying thing about Jett is that it often introduces potentially interesting storylines, only to drop them or push them to the back burner. For example, at the end of the first episode, a character is introduced that makes it seem like the main story is going to be about the protagonist’s shifting alliances and frequent double-crossings. This is referenced a handful of times, but it never becomes a significant part of the series as you would have expected.

The show also contains multiple other subplots that don’t result to much. These subplots ultimately create a complex web of relationships which, to be fair, may work itself out in the last few episodes. However, as it stands, there are a few characters whose contribution to the series is unclear, such as Rosalie, who seems like she is going to be a throwaway character in the first episode and then starts to be a bigger part of the show in episode five.

The thing that is likely to cause Jett to get the most blowback is its over-sexualized nature. The series seems to be trying to pass itself off as feminist because of the fact that its protagonist is a strong female character, which is true to an extent. Gutierrez shoots the show with such a male gaze, though, that any sense of empowerment women may feel from Jett’s story is defeated by the level of objectification with which women are treated. You will see more breasts, buttocks, and pubic hair without reason in this show than in perhaps any other show airing now.

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Carla Gugino. Photo: Christos Kalhourdis/CINEMAX.

The rest of the series’ execution feels very cheap as well — not in a monetary sense (you can tell that the budget was reasonably high) — but in a schlocky way. For every beautiful tracking shot or creative cut, there is another shot that is poorly framed or a sloppily-used wipe. Even some of the film’s more ambitious techniques, such as use of parallel editing and split-screen, work well at first but are eventually overused to the point that they start to feel like a nuisance.

The biggest success that Gutierrez had with this show was in assembling a talented ensemble that elevates the material. Gugino is very good in her leading role. Although it would have been nice to see her given more to work with, she inhabits the character very well. Her flat and blunt delivery may be somewhat jarring at first, but eventually, it makes sense as a part of the character. Giancarlo Esposito is also very good in his role even though his character is endlessly confusing. Esposito is good at flashy and over-the-top performances, and this character demands exactly that. Anytime he comes on screen, you know that the show is about to temporarily become a whole lot more fun.

It really is a disappointment that Jett wasn’t a home run. On paper, all of the elements are there for this to be great: a (literally) killer premise, charismatic stars, and a promising writer-director at the helm. Unfortunately, the show is simply too messy for it to work. But hey, maybe everything will come together in the last four episodes and the show will redeem itself.

Jett debuts on Cinemax tonight at 10pm ET, and airs subsequent Fridays at the same time until the finale. (Five out of nine episodes reviewed.)

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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