Bloodshot winds up too smart to be dumb fun and too dumb to be a smart action flick.
Well, we’ve got about a month before the start of summer and the first scheduled new wide release. I thought it was a fine time to do some spring cleaning on all of the films that slipped by because of the pandemic insanity. Being one of the last movies to get a theatrical release, Bloodshot seemed the perfect choice to begin.
Bloodshot, based on a Valiant Comics anti-hero, is not a bad movie. It is also not a good movie. Had Bloodshot come out a decade ago, its action, visuals and story elements would have been head-turning. These days, some pretty glaring missteps leave it dead on the slab.
Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel), a US Marine, returns home after a successful hostage rescue operation. He doesn’t get long to celebrate with his loving wife (Talulah Riley) as they are both grabbed by a vengeful terrorist who kills them both.
Ray wakes up in a lab, discovering that a shadowy tech mogul (Guy Pearce) has used nanomachines to power him up and bring him back to life. With his only remaining memory being of the man who killed him and his wife, he sets out for vengeance.
The central gimmick of Bloodshot (besides Vin Diesel pancaking dudes like he’s at Super Slam) is that things aren’t what they seem. Without a memory, Ray is a precarious protagonist, and Pearce’s Dr. Harting certainly proves himself to be an unreliable source of information. It’s almost lampshaded how much Bloodshot relies on the mystery and uncertainty of films like Memento, which saw Pearce as the blank slate and Joe Pantoliano as the shady antagonist.
Bloodshot also feels like it shares DNA with another “the world is not what you see” film: The Matrix. So much of the visual flair – the color correction, the varied wide camera angles, and the slow-motion action sequences – threatens to spill over from homage to caricature.
The Odd Bunch.
Despite the air of familiarity, I liked the premise and set-up for Bloodshot. My first inkling that the film had problems was in the introduction of the supporting cast. Vin Diesel and Guy Pearce do exactly what you expect of them in their roles: Vin a tough guy with a soft spot, Pearce a mysterious and ruthless manipulator. The rest of the characters…well, they suck.
Eliza Gonzalez (Hobbs & Shaw, Battle Angel Alita)never gets to play more than a thinly veiled Trinity clone. The other two super-soldiers are complete wastes. One is a vague to the point of disappearing, and the other is a raging asshole. You can have a jerk be a great antagonist, so long as he has a reason for being a constant prick (see Joe Panaliano’s Cypher from The Matrix). Bloodshot never does any of that world building.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was Lamorne Morris as a lazily scripted hacker who becomes a lynchpin of the third act. From the jump he’s a mouthy, irritating prat who constantly bedevils the pace and plot with his verbal diarrhea. It felt like his whole purpose was to pad the run time by explaining (poorly) in a hundred snarky words what could have been conveyed in one tight sentence. He was never on screen where I wasn’t wishing his character would shut the hell up.
Make It Go Boom?
OK. Most people aren’t coming to a Vin Diesel action flick looking for Shakespearean characters with great dialogue. They want to see stuff blow up and big dudes manhandle each other. On that front, Bloodshot delivers…but feels, again, a tad recycled.
Director Dave Wilson (Sonnie’s Edge) must have cut his teeth on watching the Watchowski’s entire catalogue. The use of color, arc shots, alternating high/low and close/wide angles, and slow motion all come right out of their playbook.
It mostly works. The fights are fluid and dynamic with a nice variety of sequences. While it can stray over the line of too much style over substance, they satisfy. The CG is well done, especially the body horror effects where Bloodshot is ripped apart and quickly reassembled by a swarm of nanites.
Tour of Duty.
Bloodshot almost rose above its flaws. The twists and turns of the plot are not revolutionary, but executed faithfully, giving the film another layer besides just a meat-slapping action fest. While the visuals aren’t groundbreaking, they frequently stand on their own.
If the film hadn’t unraveled in the third act by introducing lots of head-fakes courtesy of a maddeningly annoying character, I probably would have been happy with the results. Instead, it tried to flaunt cleverness it didn’t have instead of sticking to its stronger points and fell flat.