Vin Diesel’s got the perfect vocal range for supplying voices to animated creatures like an iron giant or a massive tree, but as an on-screen personality, he just isn’t all that captivating to me. I didn’t care for the Riddick or XXX films, nor do I find much of what he does outside of fast cars worth watching. (And let’s face it, the Fast and Furious franchise didn’t get interesting until they added a Rock with a dose of logic melting, physics shattering action sequences.) Bloodshot is yet another attempt for Diesel to appear relevant. And though the film is better than most of his non-Fast adventures, it’s only because the supporting cast makes the whole intriguing premise pass muster.
Diesel plays Ray Garrison, a man who watched his wife die at the hands of a smarmy terrorist (Toby Kebbell) who then killed Ray when given the wrong answers. Luckily, a top-secret facility developed a way to bring Ray back to life with the use of millions of nano-bots that help repair his body within seconds of being inflicted with any type of wound. (How could this possibly go wrong?)
With no memory of his past, Ray starts to get used to the idea of being a super soldier, one who can break concrete with his fists and walk through a flurry of bullets without a scratch. Then a song activates his revenge boner by triggering the memory of his wife’s murder. Ray immediately goes rogue to track and eliminate his prey. The question then becomes — is any of this real?
Once this question is answered, the premise ignites a flurry of interest, not only in Ray’s character, but that of the rest of the facility developing the technology that also allows navy seals to breathe toxic fumes and soldiers who’ve lost their sight to see again. With the truth revealed, where does the moral compass sit with this crack team of scientists and super soldiers, and where do they draw the line?
The battle between morality and depravity is mostly fought between the head of the agency, Dr. Emil Harting (a perfectly tuned Guy Pearce) and KT (Eiza González), who agreed to work for Dr. Harting because he gave her the aforementioned ability to breathe after her lungs were severely damaged in combat. One only sees the power and financial benefit this technology carries, the other can’t come to terms with the depravity behind the testing. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Without Pearce and González, the movie slogs through its paces as director Dave Wilson nearly puts you to sleep with his focus on Ray. Fortunately, when the premise kicks into high gear, we’re introduced to Wilfred Wigans (Lamorne Morris), the best and most important supporting character of the film who feels more like an afterthought in most cases. Wigans is essential for keeping the plot moving forward, but at the same time isn’t given a whole lot to do aside from cracking jokes. It’s almost as if this film is simply setting his character up for a much larger role in Bloodshot 2.
Throughout the film, we’re also given a lot of mindless action, some of which is heightened enough to avoid any major cliche moments, while others are so disjointed, it’s hard to follow what’s actually happening. Like the movie itself, it’s all a mixed bag of heart-pumping intrigue and mind-numbing chaos. Adding in a couple of supercharged macho ex-soldiers with bizarre tech that’s better suited for an actual superhero franchise doesn’t help matters.
And this is really where the main problem lies. Wilson seems to want to produce three different movies all at the same time, turning what could have been a fascinating sci-fi actioner into a thought-provoking science-fiction film with a hardcore shot of a robust action-thriller all wrapped in a superhero magnetism that can’t contain the artistic flourishes Wilson tended to capture.
In the end, the film works on enough levels to keep me interested in seeing where the franchise might go in the future, but not because of Diesel or his sleepy, monotonous growl. What does holds Bloodshot together as a cohesive film is the great cast of supporting characters that overshadow our main hero simply by emitting personality. All of them, including a good-natured performance by Siddharth Dhananjay as your typical hacker-nerd, work beautifully together, especially when Diesel is nowhere to be found.
My Grade: B+
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Due to the Coronavirus, studios have decided to shuttle their major releases to new dates for the foreseeable future, so it is unclear if anything new will be released in theaters over the next few weeks. Here’s hoping some smaller, independent films will get the chance to shine bright in movieplexes around the country, but if not, I will be watching the movie currently playing out in real time and return with new reviews once the pandemic has seen its conclusion.
While we wait, if there is an older movie or television show you would like my opinion on, let me know in the comments below and I will do my best to watch and review.