Built around a comic-book hero made in 1992, Dave Wilson’s Valiant Comics adaptation”Bloodshot” is a throwback actioner that probably would have murdered in the late’90s but now feels every inch that the product of the era’s humor and innovation. In a fast-changing world, that may not be a bad thing.
Vin Diesel stars as the eponymous super-soldier in a movie that was released in theatres during a worldwide pandemic and made the pivot to VOD release only days later. While not poised for a box-office hit, there is something to be said for piping the most needlessly convoluted and delightfully asinine feature.
The whole thing kind of works. Bursting with the light schemes and psychological depth of a Michael Bay film, “Bloodshot” is the kind of cinematic distraction that suddenly sounds, may be necessary, entirely welcome. It’s the type of a movie where a poor guy goes”arrrggggh” after being taken repeatedly, like the grievous bodily injury was no worse than a mild case of food poisoning, the sort of film where a horny Vin Diesel rips off his shirt and admits his sexy wife is the reason why he struggles for America, goddammit. It’s the sort of movie where those things happen over the first five minutes, and it gets sillier from there.
Even Bloodshot himself (he’s never referred to as Bloodshot) appears popped out of an action-hero mold that was performed a decade ago: a kickass more solid who knows how to throw a punch but that never quite learned how to take direction from his superiors. Fresh off another successful assignment in Mombasa, Ray Garrison (Diesel) reunites with his beloved wife Gina (Talulah Riley) in Italy, intent on taking some time off and reminiscing about his repeated promise to always, always come home for her. The Garrisons’ bliss is short-lived, as both Ray and Gina are shortly tortured and killed (that is, somehow, not a spoiler) with an evil bad man who wants answers relating to this last assignment and is prepared to do anything to receive them.
After being no less than the shot from the mind, Ray wakes up at a ritzy medical facility led by the almost giddy Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and his frowning sidekick KT (Eiza González). Ray is indeed dead, or has been gone, but is currently a part of a wild medical experiment that has filled his body with nanotech capable at every potential update. They affect every aspect of his being Rey’s mind is now a supercomputer, and his body is so charged up. He starts boxing concrete columns for fun. (His baseline intelligence, nevertheless, still looks lacking; that’s a load-bearing column, not the kind of item that you want to destroy on your underground lair.)
But there is a cost: Ray can’t remember who he is. However, he has enough street smarts to realize that somebody should still be searching for him (no, Dr. Harting all but shrugs, they get soldiers that no one else has promised ), an idea he clings to until his memory inevitably resurfaces. Diesel does not possess much in the way of dramatic chops — his inaugural process is the emotional equivalent of those baddies yelling”arrrggggh” after being taken – but Wilson’s film is more interested in anger as its defining sense (additionally, “slow-motion punching”). And thus begins Ray’s quest.
It’s not that simple. For all its common scenarios, “Bloodshot” has some spins up its sleeves, from the visible (much of what unfolds in the film’s second action was manifest in the film’s oldest trailers) to the absurd (a third action so stuffed with game-changers that a scene that takes place in Diesel’s brain is the least noteworthy of them). Our entertaining and inventive, particularly an early sequence that involves a truck filled cutting off the bad guys in a town tunnel.
Eric Heisserer’s script and jeff Wadlow, although convoluted, does cut some of the bloated elements of this original narrative, pushing the activity into early momentum, which helps relieve some of its later complications. (Bonus: Those modifications also make Ray a more immediately likable character.)
The screenplay also collapses a few characters from its source material, unfortunately flattening many of them in the procedure. Pearce handles the ricocheting characteristics of Dr. Harting, chewing up entire scenes before leaping to the next with little connective tissue. He was stuck at a one-note function that exists to give yet another tool in his formidable arsenal to Ray. Sam Heughan appears as yet another one of Dr. Harting’s”wounded warriors,” a personality that seems to exist to deliver exposition-heavy speeches at optimal moments. At the same time, Lamorne Morris shows up halfway through the feature and proceeds to control it with outsized charisma.
Still, there’s an infectious glee to some of its weirder elements, such as an earlier appearance by presumed bad guy Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), who 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 don’t make somebody with as much actorly gusto because Kebbell performs something so deliciously silly without referring to it as frequently as you can – but it does eventually take on a much more severe cast. It is too bad that”Bloodshot” doesn’t appear up to the job of fully skewering its genre and discovering something new in the procedure, instead of relying on resurrecting the dead for another bout of temporarily diverting entertainment.