This Vin Diesel-starring comic book flick is supposed to start a new cinematic universe, but it couldn't be more generic.
March 12, 2020
Vin Diesel as Frankenstein's monster? Vin Diesel reliving the same events over and over again, Edge of Tomorrow-style, to right a past wrong? Vin Diesel filled with tiny robots — including in a Terminator-esque scene where half his face is exposed, revealing the nanotechnology gleaming beneath his flesh? Throw in shades of Universal Soldier and RoboCop as well (and some speedy car chases, because Diesel sure does love getting fast and furious behind the wheel), and that's Bloodshot.
Yes, as well as tasking Diesel with playing a US soldier brought back from the dead, Bloodshot attempts to revive a variety of parts itself — all cobbled and spliced together from multiple other science-fiction stories and action flicks. That makes it a Frankenstein's monster of a movie as a whole, and the seams show at every point during this patchwork affair. Indeed, the fact that Bloodshot is actually based on a comic book character dating back to 1992 doesn't seem anywhere near as important to first-time feature director David SF Wilson as nodding at a heap of other pop culture titles. The same proves true for screenwriters Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer, with the former stuck in the derivative mode he demonstrated in this year's Fantasy Island (which he both wrote and directed), and the latter leaning more on his experience on remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing than on his screenplays for Arrival or Bird Box.
Bloodshot's premise: after not only being executed by a terrorist (Toby Kebbell) in the line of duty, but watching his wife Gina (Talulah Riley) murdered in front of him first, Ray Garrison (Diesel) awakens in Rising Spirit Tech's lab. The company has resurrected him using cutting-edge tech know-how, as head honcho Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) explains, and the soldier is now its shiny super-enhanced prototype. At first, Ray can't remember anything from his past; however memories of Gina's untimely end weave their way back into his brain. And, although he's supposed to be working as part of RST's similarly tech-augmented team, he only has supremely violent vengeance at any cost in his sights.
An unnecessarily prolonged scene featuring a psycho killer dancing to Talking Heads' 'Psycho Killer' aside, Bloodshot is initially economical with its storytelling, cutting to the crux quickly. But in what's designed to be an origin tale that kickstarts a new franchise — the Valiant Comics shared cinematic universe — the twists arrive swiftly as well. Actually, they hit even sooner if you're paying even the slightest amount of attention and you know your pop culture history. Bloodshot might be drawn from the page but, on the big screen, it's so generic and reminiscent of such a large number other works that it's devoid of any surprises, even if you've never read the source material.
That been-there, done-that feeling also applies to Diesel, who, at this point in his career, could glare menacingly, growl threats in his gravelly tone and do whatever he needs to for his various on-screen families in his sleep. As previously seen in the Fast and Furious franchise, the xXx franchise and even in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (albeit without the stare given that Groot is 100-percent CGI), Bloodshot calls upon all those trademarks. And, like everything else in the film, Diesel just seems like he's borrowing from his past material. He's at his best when he's letting the smallest trace amount of humour sink in, as is the movie too, but that's not all that often. In fact, Bloodshot doesn't appear to know how far to ramp up its laughs or liveliness, primarily settling for serious, slick and oh-so standard rather than injecting any personality into proceedings.
Elsewhere, Pearce wades through the feature's many tropes with more commitment than the film perhaps asks for, in what's still a boilerplate scientist role. Baby Driver's Eiza González effectively adds a dose of sensitivity, while New Girl's Lamorne Morris is the only actor who appears to be enjoying his work — although they too play parts that seem to have been written on autopilot. That's perhaps Bloodshot's biggest struggle. It's so wedded to slotting into a specific stitched-together mould that it squanders the very few highlights it manages to rustle up. In action scenes, standout moments are dwarfed by cartoonishness. Whenever the feature gains even a skerrick of big dumb action movie-style momentum, it attempts to get deep by pondering fate and free will. And, as is so often the case in flicks trying to spawn new franchises, it's more interested in setting up future instalments than the details at hand. Diesel might be looking for another big series to add to his resume, but absolutely nothing about this thin star vehicle screams for a follow-up.