THE last TV series where we saw Carla Gugino was “The Haunting of Hill House” where she played the doomed mother of a haunted family, then we saw her in the Netflix movie, “Gerald’s Game”. She started her career in the comedy movie “Troop Beverly Hills” in the late 80s and she’s the only one still active in the batch of young stars introduced in that movie. She never really became a big star, but she has been consistently active both on the big and small screen. We remember her most in the “Spy Kids” trilogy and as the wife of The Rock in “San Andreas”.
She now gets to play the title role in the Cinemax’ action-drama, “Jett”, where she plays a master thief who just came out of prison. Her full name is Daisy Kowalski and she hopes to go straight with her daughter, Alice (Violet McGraw, also her daughter in “Haunting of Hill House”), and her ailing but loyal Latina friend, Maria (Elena Anaya).
But crime lords won’t leave her in peace, like Charlie Baudelaire (Giancarlo Esposito of “Breaking Bad”) who asks her to steal a ring that is of great sentimental value from his rival kingpin, Miljan Bestic (Greg Bryk), who seems to have a connection with Charlie’s gay, very black and very brutal son, Junior (Gentry White).
Jett agrees, saying it will be her one last job, but since Bestic is based in his own enclave in Cuba, she says she’d need the help of her former black partner-lover, Quinn (Mustafa Shakir), an expert but convicted safe cracker who’s currently in prison, so they have to help him escape first.
She succeeds in seducing Bestic and gets to steal the ring from him, but it turns out Bestic is aware of their plan, abducts them and ruthlessly kills Quinn right in front of Jett. Bestic then orders her to secretly work for him versus Baudelaire, or else, something will happen to her and her daughter. All this happens in just the first episode.
The next seven episodes introduces so many other characters and the plotting becomes labyrinthine in its complexity as writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez (“Gothika”, who’s Carla’s real life partner) jumps back and forth in time in his storytelling. You have to have a good memory to remember everyone and all the subplots happening in show.
The other characters we meet are Det. Jack Dillon (Michael Aronov), who first got to know Jett when he was working with her as an undercover cop and he turns out to have a very big connection with her; Josie (Jodie Turner Smith), the black female cop who’s Jack’s girlfriend; Phoenix (Gaite Jansen), Jett’s blonde friend she met in prison who later becomes a big help to her; Bennie (Chris Backus), Charlie’s henchman who becomes enamoured with a woman he once kidnapped, Rosalie (Lucy Walters); Evans (Gil Bellows), Bestic’s right hand man; Jacinto Salas (Ache Hernandez), Charlie’s other rival kingpin who he doesn’t know is conniving with his own son; and others.
Aside from the many characters, the show also has plenty of shocking twists, double crosses and lurid surprises that makes it a truly riveting hard-boiled crime drama. One thing you’d notice is that all the characters speak the same way, all very articulate, trying to be witty and dishing out snappy lines and wisecracks.
For instance, when a character that Jett maimed knows he’s about to be killed, he asks her: “What does your pussy taste like?” And she replies without skipping a beat: “Summer”. Bennie, when he kidnaps Rosalie, threatens her husband: “I will rape her every hour then chop her up and mail you the body parts.” Its playful tone almost feels like a tribute to Quentin Tarantino.
As a crime caper, it's well acted by its huge ensemble cast, but in fairness to Carla Gugino, she’s a standout in every scene. As the eponymous anti-hero in an underworld dominated by men who just want to use her, she’s never reacting, just sporting a deadpan face, looking unflappably cool, but you know she’s simmering and smoldering underneath.
She may be pushing 50 but is stil in great shape, so sexy in her nude scenes and unabashed bedscenes, so attractive in her stylish costumes and unpredictably violent in the action scenes where she’s compelled to kill people even if she claims she’s mainly a thief, not a murderer. If only for her performance, “Jett” is definitely an engaging action-drama with a very high body count that is so much fun to watch.