The Marvel Cinematic Universe changed the way movies were made. Instead of focusing on individual features, it seemed like every studio in town was clamoring for their own shared universe of characters. Some have been public failures (R.I.P. Dark Universe), some have been admirable successes (I eagerly await Godzilla vs. Kong), but none have managed to achieve the success of the MCU’s standard. Vin Diesel aims to change that with Bloodshot, an adaptation of a once-popular comic meant to forge a universe based off of Valiant Comics characters. It goes about as well as you’d expect.
Throughout its runtime, Bloodshot is never anything less than competent. Director David S.F. Wilson, making his feature debut here, certainly knows how to frame a decent action scene, and tell a clear story. Vin Diesel is a solid leading man, as always. And its central hook- a biologically engineered soldier being given false memories to do the bidding of his keepers- opens up a lot of possibilities. Where Bloodshot fumbles that potential is in a script that takes the most generic route at every turn.
As a writer, Jeff Wadlow has been responsible for some high profile stinkers. Kick-Ass 2, Truth or Dare, the list goes on. His co-writer, Eric Heisserer, is best known for writing the science fiction masterpiece Arrival. So when you put these two together you arrive at something fundamentally inert. Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) doesn’t have much of a character. He’s a skilled warrior who loves his wife (Talullah Riley). That’s really all you get. Eventually, the two of them get kidnapped, and his wife is murdered in cold blood in front of him. He’s then saved and injected with nanites by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), giving him special abilities of strength, and imperviousness to weapons, christening him “Bloodshot”. With these strengths, Garrison joins a squadron and begins to hunt down the man who killed his wife.
You know the drill. He discovers his memories of his wife’s death aren’t his own, and he’s out for blood(shot). It’s the same tired, revenge tale you’ve seen before. There’s nothing in the way of the exploration of male rage like in Mandy, or the loss of humanity angle that made Robocop an instant classic. When you’re telling a tale this basic, you have to have some sort of levity or irony about it. Certainly, you can’t expect audiences to gobble up a story this overdone without something to add.
Except the filmmakers totally do. Bloodshot is a humorless affair that indulges in every trope of its genre with a stone face. The tech behind Garrison’s transformation into “Bloodshot” is boring technobabble. His crew is indistinguishable from one another, save for Eiza Gonzalez’s character, who is only notable because cinematographer Jacques Jouffret ogles her physical features. The only bit of levity we get is in the form of tech prodigy Wilfred Wigans (Lamorne Morris), who at least seems to know he’s in a very silly movie.
Bloodshot seems like something culled out of the early-to-mid 2000s. Venom had earlier received that criticism upon its release, but that movie at least had character. It was fun. The most engagement you’ll get with Bloodshot, is being mildly amused as Vin Diesel punches someone. And there are much better movies for that.
As the start of a cinematic universe, Bloodshot makes no case for further films. As its own film, Bloodshot is an anemic rehash of better movies in science fiction and the revenge genre. Since many of us are holed up at home currently, I know there might be some temptation to rent Bloodshot. Don’t. Rent The Hunt. Buy Birds of Prey. Or better yet, just watch a Fast & Furious movie! You have an abundance of time, don’t waste it with Bloodshot. –James Preston Poole
Bloodshot will be available on Digital HD March 24, 2020.