I’m betting that there are a lot of moviegoers unfamiliar with the name Bloodshot. And I bet there are just as many who have never heard of Valiant Comics. It’s understandable. After all, getting noticed among such heavyweights as Marvel and DC Comics has to be a challenge for any small publisher. But Valiant has stuck around, bouncing between four different parent companies since being founded in 1989 and winning several awards along the way.
Historically, Bloodshot is one of Valiant’s most popular superheroes. He debuted in 1992 and like most comic book characters he has evolved over time. But his story has generally remained the same. Bloodshot is a former soldier who had his memory wiped and body injected with state-of-the-art nanotechnology as part of yet another super soldier program. It granted him superhuman strength, speed, and reflexes, a Wolverine-like healing factor, and the ability to hack into other tech. I’ve always liked the character but was a little surprised to see him getting the big screen treatment.
“Bloodshot” was to be the first in a five-movie deal set in the Valiant universe. It marks the feature film debut for director David S. F. Wilson from a script co-written by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer (the latter best known for penning “Arrival”). Despite my reservations and minuscule expectations, I ended up having fun with “Bloodshot”. Too bad it’s hampered by one nagging issue that shows itself early into the film and never really goes away.
Vin Diesel plays Marine Ray Garrison who would make Rambo proud on the battlefield but always looks forward to coming back to his wife Gina (Talulah Riley). But when a mission in Mombasa follows him home, both Ray and Gina are kidnapped by a mysterious psychopath and his henchmen.￼ Ray watches as his wife is murdered then he too is killed.
He’s resurrected by Dr. Emil Harting (the always welcomed Guy Pearce), a genius techno-scientist working to create the ultimate super soldier (heard that one before). To bring Ray back the good doctor injects him with millions of nanites replacing what was once his bloodstream. And just like that Ray is imbued with superhuman strength, the power to heal within seconds, and a knack for tapping into anything electronic. The one problem – he has no past memories whatsoever.
As Ray tries to adjust he is helped by KT (Eiza González), one of several augmented soldiers working for Dr. Harting. But things get dicey once he starts having memory flashes of Gina and her murder. Obviously in a movie like this Ray wants to track down the guy who killed the woman he loved. But that’s not why he was brought back from the dead and we quickly learn Harting has more control￼ than Ray was led to believe.
The story moves along at a fairly snappy pace and features a few pretty impressive action scenes. There are a ton of digital effects, some glaringly obvious and other times really well done. But some of the action is chopped up and made indecipherable due to furious quick cutting. It’s not constant but enough to be an annoyance. It’s maddening that filmmakers are still using this approach.
As for Diesel, he isn’t an actor known for having a ton of depth. You know what you’re going to get. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is a gravelly two-dimensional charm that he brings to his roles. Here he is basically Dom Torreto with nanotechnology instead of a 1970 Dodge Charger. Most of the human layers come from González who does a nice job with a good chunk of screen time. And Pearce brings gravitas but also believability to a role that could have went bad a number of different ways. And Lamorne Morris does a nice job bringing levity while not being annoying. Oh and there’s Tobey Kebbell in shorts, gym socks, and a pair of slides dancing to “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads. It’s the nuttiest scene in the movie and I kinda loved it.
But then we get back to the one crippling issue I mentioned above. Ultimately “Bloodshot” is hurt the most by predictability. The story and where it ends is never in doubt. There is an interesting reveal around the halfway mark, but otherwise the course is obvious. Even the characters are pretty much drawn out from the very start. Most fit very familiar types and never venture off of those well-worn paths. It unfortunately robs the movie of any real suspense despite the best efforts of the cast.
From a strict critical perspective it would be hard not to pick “Bloodshot” apart. It trips over itself too often and outside of one good reveal the script hasn’t much new to offer. But I’m not going to lie, I had a good time with it. It’s intermittently clever, some of the action is cool, and I enjoyed most of the performances. “Bloodshot” is the picture of pure Hollywood escapism. And in these days of anxiety over a global pandemic, we could all use an escape.