Built around a comic-book hero created in 1992, Dave Wilson’s Valiant Comics adaptation”Bloodshot” is a cast actioner that likely would have killed in the late’90s, but today feels every inch the product of the age’s humor and innovation. In a world that is changing, however, that may not be a terrible thing.
Vin Diesel stars as the eponymous super-soldier in a film that was released in theatres amid a worldwide pandemic, and also smartly made the pivot to VOD release mere days after. While not poised to be a box-office struck, there’s something to be said for piping the asinine and convoluted feature into people’s homes when entertainment is much more essential than ever.
The whole thing kind of works. Bursting with both the light schemes and emotional depth of a Michael Bay movie, “Bloodshot” is the type of cinematic distraction that suddenly sounds, may be necessary, entirely welcome. It’s the type of a film in which a poor guy goes”arrrggggh” after being shot repeatedly, as though grievous bodily harm was not any worse than a mild case of food poisoning, the type of movie where a horny Vin Diesel rips off his shirt and declares that his hot wife is why he fights for America, goddammit. It’s the type of movie where those things occur within the first five minutes, and it just gets sillier from there.
Even Bloodshot himself (he is never, ever referred to as Bloodshot) appears popped right out of an action-hero mold that was performed a few years ago: a kickass more solid who knows how to throw a punch but who never really learned how to take direction from his superiors. Fresh off another successful assignment in Mombasa, Ray Garrison (Diesel) reunites with his dear wife Gina (Talulah Riley) in Italy, intent on taking time away and reminiscing about his repeated promise to regularly, always come home to her. The Garrisons’ bliss is short-lived, as both Ray and Gina are shortly tortured and murdered (this is, somehow, not a spoiler) with an evil bad man who wants answers about that previous mission prepared to do anything to get them.
After being no less than the shot from the head, Ray wakes up in a ritzy medical facility headed from the nearly giddy Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and his frowning sidekick KT (Eiza González). Ray is really dead, or at least has been gone, but is currently a part of a wild medical experiment that has stuffed his body using nanotech capable of every conceivable upgrade. The tech tune-ups affect every aspect of his being: Ray’s mind is now a supercomputer, and his body is so charged up that he starts boxing concrete columns for fun. (His baseline intellect, however, still looks lacking; that is a load-bearing column, maybe not the type of thing that you want to destroy on your underground lair.)
But there’s a cost: Ray can’t remember who he is, but he has enough street smarts to understand that someone should still be looking for him (no, Dr. Harting all but shrugs, they only get soldiers that nobody else has promised ), an idea he clings to until his memory necessarily resurfaces. Diesel doesn’t have much in the way of dramatic chops – his mourning procedure is the emotional equivalent of those baddies yelling”arrrggggh” after being shot – but Wilson’s film is more interested in anger as its defining sense (also, “slow-motion punching”). And thus starts the quest of Ray to exact revenge.
It is not that simple. For many its common scenarios, “Bloodshot” has some spins up its own sleeves, from the apparent (much of everything participates in the movie’s second act was clear from the film’s oldest trailers) to the absurd (a third act so packed with game-changers a scene that happens in Diesel’s brain is the least noteworthy of them). The majority of its actions scenes that rely on more than Diesel punching people are ingenious and entertaining early sequence that involves a truck filled cutting off the bad guys in a town tunnel.
Jeff Wadlow and the script of Eric Heisserer, although convoluted, does cut a few of the bloated elements of this first storyline, forcing against the activity into early momentum, which helps alleviate some of its complications. (Bonus: Those modifications make Ray an immediately likable character)
The screenplay collapses a few characters out of its source material, flattening many of them in the procedure. Pearce handles the ricocheting characteristics of Dr. Harting, chewing up entire scenes before jumping to another with little connective tissue. It was stuck at a role that only exists to give another instrument in his arsenal that was formidable to Ray. Sam Heughan appears as yet another one of Dr. Harting’s”wounded warriors,” a character which seems to exist simply to deliver exposition-heavy addresses at optimal minutes, while Lamorne Morris shows up halfway through the characteristic and proceeds to dominate it with outsized charisma.
Still, there’s an infectious glee to a number of its stranger components, such as an earlier look by presumed bad man Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), that literally struts about a meat locker to Talking Heads'”Psycho Killer” before demonstrating himself to be something of, well, a psycho killer. This a bonkers scene would return to haunt both Ray and Martin is a given – you do not make somebody with as much actorly gusto because Kebbell performs something so deliciously silly without speaking to it as frequently as you can – but it will finally take on a far more severe cast. It is too bad that”Bloodshot” doesn’t appear up to the job of completely skewering its own genre and finding something new in the procedure, instead of relying on resurrecting the dead for one more bout of temporarily diverting entertainment.