Directed by Dave Wilson.
Starring Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Guy Pearce, Toby Kebbell, Sam Heughan, Talulah Riley, Alex Hernandez, Siddharth Dhananjay, and Lamorne Morris.
After he and his wife are assassinated, Marine Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is brought back to life by a team of scientists. Enhanced with nanotechnology, he becomes a superhuman, biotech killing machine – Bloodshot.
It’s fair to say that Vin Diesel hasn’t managed to successfully expand his “brand” outside of the bread-and-butter familiarity of both The Fast and the Furious and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though certainly not for lack of trying over the years.
Franchise-ready duds like Babylon A.D. and The Last Witch Hunter in particular indicate the actor’s keen interest in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, yet it doesn’t appear to be a mode that audiences (or critics) seem much keen to accept him in – in live-action form, at least.
And now, we can add Bloodshot to the pile, a slushy comic book adaptation that couldn’t feel more directly tethered to the beginnings of Diesel’s blockbuster career. For better and for worse, this is a shameless early-2000s throwback – though this time around, both of the 52-year-old Diesel’s love interests are roughly two decades his junior (because of course they are).
After Marine Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) and his wife Gina (Talulah Riley) are murdered by ambiguously-accented gangster Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), Garrison wakes up to find himself revived via cutting edge nanotechnology, courtesy of Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce). Better still, Garrison is kitted out with a number of nifty upgrades; enhanced strength, regeneration, and even the ability to scan computer databases in seconds. All useful for revenge, then.
It’s hardly a unique premise for the genre, and Bloodshot feels most obviously indebted to movies like The Terminator, The Matrix, and Source Code, no matter that the latter two are predated by the title character’s creation. But a lack of originality doesn’t need to imply a joyless sandbox, especially with The Fast and the Furious‘ Neal H. Moritz co-producing the film with Diesel.
For a clue of what Bloodshot really is, though, you shouldn’t look at Moritz or the Valiant Comics source material, but debuting director Dave Wilson. Having cut his teeth as the helmer of video game cinematics in hit titles such as Mass Effect 2, BioShock Infinite, and The Division, it perhaps shouldn’t be terribly surprising that his movie spends most of its 109-minute runtime resembling a video game.
That needn’t be a negative, though it’s clear that, despite the script’s intermittent inventiveness, this production was stretching its $45 million budget past the point of tenable elasticity. A movie about a man who becomes a near-indestructible superhero naturally requires a ton of expensive VFX, and there’s an infuriating inconsistency to the visuals on offer.
At times it looks passable, even decent, yet in the film’s more high-concept, vertiginous third act battle, it’s howlingly low-fi. That’s not to ignore some hilariously unconvincing location doubling either, with “London” appearing to have been lazily recreated in Cape Town instead; not even the license plates are correct.
As Wilson’s first live-action feature project, one also suspects he may have been somewhat in over his head, given the sloppily assembled non-quality of the film’s action sequences. From almost the first minute of Bloodshot, the set-pieces are aggressively hacked into split-second slivers of coverage haphazardly stapled together, which when not headache-inducing are at least spatially confusing and simply irritating to watch.
It all comes back to the script, though – yes, even in a movie like this – which was bizarrely co-penned by the talented Eric Heisserer (Arrival) and the more dubious Jeff Wadlow (Truth or Dare, Fantasy Island). If the first act implies a painfully generic superhero origin story we’ve seen dozens of times before, act two at least offers up a vaguely creative genre subversion, playing with the nature of Ray’s damaged memory and the general fishiness of his resurrection.
At times it feels like a commentary on genre filmmaking itself, especially in a ludicrous sequence where Guy Pearce’s scenery-nibbling Harting literally remixes one of Ray’s memories in some sort of cerebral version of Adobe Premiere. It’s hilarious, and for a fleck of time, it actually feels like the movie is in on the joke.
To be clear, there is certainly humour peppered throughout this chest-beating superhero romp, though sadly little of it lands pleasantly. Especially unfortunate is an English hacker sidekick introduced in the second half of the movie, played with an irksome twitchiness by Lamorne Morris. It’s hardly Morris’ fault, though; the character’s desperately unfunny quips are often suspiciously delivered without the actor’s mouth visible, suggesting they were piped in during post-production in a desperate attempt to lighten things up.
After all, Diesel is rather a dour bore here, and though he spends much of the film shouting in his distinctive baritone, one comes away feeling that the part could have been better played by a far more charismatic and equally musclebound actor – of which there’s no shortage in Hollywood. Dave Bautista, anyone?
The peripheral cast members fare much better, thankfully; Guy Pearce is in full Lockout mode here with an amusingly sniveling performance that bears an unexpected similarity to his Aldrich Killian role in Iron Man 3, while Toby Kebbell gets to dance and goof around as the first-act antagonist. Eiza González meanwhile acquits herself well enough as Harting’s put-upon assistant KT, even demonstrating some honest-to-God chemistry with the leading man.
But the movie’s overall beige approach to action, narrative, and character doesn’t serve the cast much; it might do just barely enough for those craving a thoughtless, relatively fast-moving action jaunt, but for anyone expecting even slightly more substance, it’s a sure failure.
While not without some inspired smart-dumb moments, Bloodshot is fatally hobbled by spasmodically edited action sequences rife with embarrassingly dated CGI.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.