You Don’t Need a Past to Have a Future
Vin Diesel, veteran of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to his supporting voice role as Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks, now gets to headline his own superhero adaptation, and the result is not a million miles away from any other non-franchise Vin actioner you’ve seen over the course of his career, only with added special effects and sci-fi silliness. It’s also not a million miles away from several other film and comic book properties, mixing elements chiefly from 87’s Robocop and 2000’s Memento (and no, not just co-star Guy Pearce) but also The Wolverine (2013), The Terminator (1984), and more. It’s less than the sum of its parts, but some of those parts are worth your time and attention.
Vin plays Marine Ray Garrison, who is resurrected using nanotechnology after he and his wife, Gina (Talulah Riley), are assassinated as payback for the results of some of his military heroism. His scientific savior, Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), has made a project of enhancing injured combat veterans — he’s already given military diver KT (Eiza González) a new respiratory system, and Navy SEAL Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan) bionic legs, while former sniper Tibbs (Alex Hernandez), blinded in the line of duty, now has a suite of cameras feeding data into his visual cortex. Ray, however, is the first dead guy they’ve brought back (there’s your Robocop), sans memory (hello, Wolverine) but with his bloodstream full of nanites that will heal almost any injury (hello again, Wolverine).
Ray is a bit perturbed at being back from the dead with no idea who he is, but even more perturbed when memories of his wife’s murder surface and he hies off to hunt down the rotter responsible (Toby Kebbell, who is only ever good when layered in CGI as in the new Planet of the Apes movies). But is he responsible? What’s Dr. Harting’s real plan? What’s gonna happen when Ray finds out?
Well, a whole lot of superhuman action, that’s what, and although Bloodshot has pacing problems and is Frakensteined together out of way too many better films, it doesn’t skimp on that. Ray’s nanites give him super strength also, and he’s a highly trained killing machine to boot, and so the action scenes they can afford to shoot are pretty good, although rather small in scale. You get the feeling that this one was a bit of a shoestring project; one of Ray’s roaring rampages of revenge is shown almost entirely on thermographic monitors, and the effect is very much not ‘this is a cool thematically resonant way to depict this violence’ and more ‘this will shave a large six-digit number off the budget.’
Within its constraints, though, Bloodshot manages to pull out some cool ideas. At one point, Tibb’s vision is slaved to a flock of aerial drones, giving him a bird’s eye view of the urban field of battle; at another, an enhanced soldier fights using an exoskeleton that gives him an extra set of arms. Vin gives good stoic tough guy — hell, it’s his go-to onscreen persona, so by this stage of the game we should expect no less — and Eiza González, Baby Driver (2017), takes what could easily have been a fairly two-dimensional role as the tough gal/ hot chick and makes her … well, not three-dimensional because nobody here is, but cool — she deserves an action vehicle of her own. Guy Pearce could do what’s demanded of him here in his sleep at this point in his career, and I can only imagine his involvement stems from a combination of financial motivation and amusement that the plot is a comiced-up take on Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), which hoiked his profile a few rungs up the Hollywood ladder at the turn of the millennium.
It’s difficult to say whether Bloodshot, a figure drawn from the third tier Valiant Comics shared universe, had any legions of fans champing at the bit to see him get his due up on the big screen; I’ve never read the comics myself, and the fact that Jared Leto was once attached to play him indicates a somewhat elastic, if not actually ill-defined, character. I doubt that this thing is gonna kick off a Valiant Cinematic Universe the way Iron Man (2008) did for Marvel back in the day. I am pretty sure it’s going to cop a critical mauling, which is a bit of a shame — it’s not a terrible film, just a fairly rote and unambitious one.
Director Dave Wilson, making his feature debut here, has some action chops, and the script, by Blumhouse regular Jeff Wadlow and Arrival (2016) scribe Eric Heisserer, does manage to hit the requisite ‘origin issue’ beats and leave us set up for the further adventures of Bloodshot. That probably won’t happen, though — this feels like a one-off. Fans of the genre and/ or the character will find something to enjoy here, but I can’t see anyone not already on board getting their minds changed.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Travis Johnson