'Bloodshot': Film Review

Makes for an unremarkable false start.
3/13/2020

Vin Diesel stars alongside Guy Pearce as a virtually unstoppable tech-enhanced soldier struggling to access traumatic buried memories in David S. F. Wilson’s superhero origin story.

With Bloodshot, Vin Diesel adds a new hero to his collection of wisecracking rebels, after notable turns as a street racer, intergalactic raider and deep space fugitive, among a series of other memorable (or not) roles. A muscular actioner with enough explosions, shootouts and beatdowns to satisfy the young male audiences typically drawn to Diesel’s material, Sony Pictures’ feature should benefit from release in the immersive ICE cinema format. But even that enhancement may not broaden the movie’s appeal much beyond a predictable fan base.

Based on the popular Valiant Comics character, Bloodshot’s origin story represents Sony’s attempt to stake a claim to a cinematic universe that could become a competitive superhero franchise, but this initial installment consistently struggles to deliver the goods.

Visual effects expert and first-time feature director David S.F. Wilson doesn’t have much use for character development or backstory, jumping straight into the action as tough-as-nails U.S. Marine Ray Garrison (Diesel) confronts a group of unsavory operatives holding him hostage who are determined to extract classified information about his latest clandestine mission. Although Garrison insists he’s in the dark, aspiring arch-criminal Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell) attempts to persuade him to turn on his handlers by torturing and then executing his wife (Talulah Riley) before killing Garrison, too — but not before the soldier swears to track him down and take him out.

He’s revived in a high-tech lab by nefarious scientist Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), CEO of Rising Spirit Technology, who reveals that Garrison is now a super-soldier endowed with incredible strength and agility: Bloodshot. Harting has replaced Garrison’s bloodstream with millions of miniaturized nano-tech bots known as nanites, transforming him with the ability to heal from injuries almost instantly and to connect directly with online networks.

Harting explains his plan to team Bloodshot with three other former service members as an unstoppable secret ops squad, including two similarly endowed combat vets and KT (Eiza Gonzalez), whose lungs have been modified so that she can breathe underwater. Before they can take on their first mission, though, Bloodshot escapes from Harting’s facility, hell-bent on taking revenge on Axe and forcing the doctor to send out the team to forcibly retrieve him before Bloodshot uncovers the conspiracy that has him effectively enslaved to Harting.

Valiant Comics’ Bloodshot releases have been highly successful both domestically and internationally, creating a receptive fan base for the new movie, but Diesel’s own celebrity, derived from a wide variety of action-hero roles, may actually eclipse rather than enhance the character. This imbalance is partly down to Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer’s underdeveloped script, which centers the plot on an unsubstantial premise that has Bloodshot trying to break free of Rising Spirit Technology’s clutches, as Harting plays out a feeble corporate revenge scenario.

Diesel tackles this unremarkable storyline with his usual gusto, grunting and flexing his way through successively more intense action scenes. In keeping with his frequently taciturn characters, he doesn’t have much to say, but he kicks a lot of ass, particularly in a couple of impressive set pieces that see him taking out a variety of heavily armed or technologically enhanced baddies. Meanwhile, Pearce really isn’t up to the villainous evil scientist character, showing way too much empathy and not enough antipathy toward his high-tech creations.

Wilson acquits himself adequately enough, emphasizing pacing over character development, but delivering a series of kinetically propelled scenes that clearly benefit from his extensive visual effects experience.

Production companies: Bona Film Group, Cross Creek Pictures, Original Film, AnnaBell Pictures, The Hideaway Entertainment, Valiant Entertainment
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Cast: Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Lamorne Morris, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley
Director: David S.F. Wilson
Screenwriters: Jeff Wadlow, Eric Heisserer
Producers: Toby Jaffe, Neal H. Moritz, Dinesh Shamdasani, Vin Diesel
Executive producers: Louis G. Friedman, Dan Mintz, Buddy Patrick, Yu Dong, Jeffrey Chan, Matthew Vaughn, Rita LeBlanc
Director of photography: Jacques Jouffret
Production designer: Tom Brown
Costume designer: Kimberly A. Tillman
Editor: Jim May
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Casting director: John Papsidera

Rated PG-13, 109 minutes