There’s a scene around the mid-point of Bloodshot that sees an EMP detonated to try and stop Vin Diesel’s titular unkillable superhero. The resultant blast plunges a city into darkness, with characters exasperatedly shouting about how they “Can’t see anything on my screen!”. Mere moments later, in an unexpected bit of Fourth Wall-breaking, the cinema screen in which we were watching this early press preview also went dark as the movie promptly stopped playing. I alerted cinema staff and a few minutes later, the movie was playing again… at a later point than what we had last seen… with no sound. Sigh. More complaints to cinema staff ensued and now everything was rewound to where we last saw and started playing with sound… but no picture. Double sigh. A third round of complaints and now we had sound and picture… but it was ten minutes earlier than where it had stopped meaning we needed to watch the whole EMP scene all over again. TRIPLE SIGH.
I mention all of this here now because these few minutes of technical buffoonery we had to endure was by far the most memorable few moments of my entire experience watching Bloodshot.
Three days removed from the film and I cannot recall a single character’s name outside of Diesel’s Ray Garrison, a decorated marine who, along with his beautiful wife, finds himself on the wrong side of Toby Kebbel’s dancing psychopathic terrorist in a coat and slippers who promptly kills them both. However, thanks to the bleeding edge Frankensteinian tech of a team of scientists led by Guy Pearce’s… um… Dr Emil Harting (had to Wiki that one), Ray is brought back to life. As the first successful test subject of “Project Bloodshot”, Ray’s blood has been replaced with billions of nanobots that don’t just enhance his physical strength considerably but also grant him instantaneous healing powers bordering on immortality (but not the power of emotional range, sadly).
He is introduced to other earlier attempts at creating supersoldiers, most notably Eiza Gonzalez’s KT, a moody ex-Navy diver who now “breathes” through a chest-mounted clavicle. There’s also Blind-Guy-Who-Can-See-360-Degrees-With-Body-Mounted-Cameras and Douche-With-Robot-Legs. That’s all you’re going to remember about them anyway. And speaking of memory, due to the head trauma he endured in his death, Ray remembers nothing about his personal life. But as he gets to know his new compatriots, flashes of the man who killed him and his wife start popping into his thoughts. Using the considerable but untested technology flowing through his veins to track the villain down, and despite the pleading of Harting and co, Ray sets out on a path of vengeance. This hot/nano-blooded act of revenge is not as it seems though.
Well, at least to anybody who hasn’t seen the movie’s trailer which immediately throws the film’s big plot twist right in your face. If you’re familiar with Bloodshot, the brilliantly hard-hitting Valiant Comics title which this film adapts, you would also know that this twist is actually a rather clever bit of narrative sleight of hand, used to continuously undermine Ray Garrison’s mental state, resulting in a hero with a body that can withstand tank shells operated by a mind as fragile as damp tissue paper. That dichotomy, digging into issues of real-world PTSD, is what makes Bloodshot such a compelling superhero. On paper, that is.
On-screen, Diesel’s Bloodshot is a lunking slab of meat who grunts his way from one uninspired action set piece to the next, absorbing enough small-arms fire to overthrow an Eastern European country (in a laughably bloodless PG-13 fashion when compared to its gory source). First-time feature film director David S.F. Wilson has had a long and very respectable career as a VFX artist on some major video games and also helmed Sonnie’s Edge, the damn good opening chapter of Netflix’s acclaimed sci-fi anthology Love, Death & Robots. Unfortunately, Wilson shows virtually none of that earlier promise here with lacklustre filmmaking throughout. Even his vaunted VFX skills are missing with the film’s big finale, a big nanotech battle on the side of a skyscraper devolving into nothing more than putty-people approximations of actors slamming CGI pixels into each other.
Even more surprising than the film’s disappointing visuals though, is that the middling script comes from Eric Heisserer and Jeff Wadlow. While the latter has left a lot to be desired in his career with such tepid offerings as Kick-Ass 2, Never Back Down, and Fantasy Island, Heisserer is the Oscar-winning scribe of Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi masterpiece Arrival. Occasionally, if you squint your eyes and look at it at just the right angle, the type of introspective smarts that made that film as good as it was does sorta-kinda-maybe show up in Bloodshot. When delivered by Diesel with the emotional conviction (and voice) of a pile of boulders though, it counts for nought. At least there’s some vitality in the flick though thanks to a very entertaining turn by New Girl’s Lamorne Morris as Wilfred Wiggins, a motormouth Cockney tech genius who just wants to eat his Simply Asia takeout in peace.
Yes, Simply Asia, because Bloodshot was shot right here in our backyard in Cape Town. A fact that becomes embarrassingly apparent to us locals when Diesel’s Garrison goes from what is very explicitly described to be central London to suddenly running around in Bo Kaap, complete with its iconic colourful houses, Table Mountain in the background, cars with CA registrations, and even South African Police Service vehicles and officers featuring extensively without Wilson and co even bothering to cover anything up.
It’s that lack of finishing effort that really symbolises Bloodshot as a whole. It grievously commits that most heinous of filmmaking crimes by not being utterly terrible but not being particularly good either. Anybody just wanting their next fix of Vin Diesel hitting/shooting/exploding things as he defies the laws of physics and nothing more should be able to glean a bit of satisfaction from this. For everybody else though, this is Meh: The Movie, coasting by on mediocrity on practically every technical level. Sony has billed Bloodshot as the potential start of a new shared cinematic universe based on Valiant Comics, but while its title character may be unkillable, I think those ambitions won’t be so lucky.
Last Updated: March 13, 2020