Bloodshot movie review: Vin Diesel’s Valiant Comics superhero can’t transcend the Marvel-DC bipartisanship
So much of Bloodshot is reminiscent of other films, you start to wonder if there is a single original idea hiding underneath its typical Hollywood exterior.
castVin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Lamorne Morris, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley
directorDavid SF Wilson
Some troubling news from the future: Scientists can solve death, and turn men into weapons of mass destruction, but they still cannot cure baldness. So you better embrace it, and hope future generations can pull it off with half the exhibitionist oomph Vin Diesel displays in Bloodshot.
The new superhero film based on the Valiant Comics character lets us imagine a world beyond the bipartisanship of Marvel and DC Comics. Originally announced as a launching point for a possible Valiant Comics Universe akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), Bloodshot truly tests the limits of our superhero fatigue.
The film seeks to offer an alternative to the assembly line ingenuity of Marvel and the oh-so-dark-turned-offbeat thrills of DC. But it really is more an off-brand version, or like the counterfeit Abibas to Adidas.
With its psychologically damaged hero, body enhancements, love for virtual reality, and perfunctory critique of tech corporations, Bloodshot reduces cyberpunk to cyberpop. It wants to be Robocop but ends up somewhere in the disastrous Universal Soldier territory. In 2018, Leigh Whannell's Upgrade gave us a far more substantial vengeance-fuelled cyberpunk spectacle — and for one-fifteenth of the budget of Bloodshot.
For Valiant Comics neophytes, Bloodshot does serve as a utilitarian introduction to the character. A slain soldier named Raymond Garrison (Diesel) is brought back from the dead by Dr Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), and turned into a Terminator-like invincible killing machine with Wolverine-like self-healing abilities — thanks to the billions of nanobots coursing through his body. Ray cannot remember anything from his past. Emil and his firm Rising Spirit Technologies (RST) are not exactly honest with him, simply directing him to his next kill mission. As scraps of memories begin spilling into his nightmares, Ray begins an action-packed campaign of car-and-truck chases, elevator fights, and Bay-esque explosions to find the truth of his identity.
Bloodshot begins as a typical origin story: Ray completes a classified military operation in Kenya, and returns home to whisk his wife Gina (Talulah Riley) off to the Mediterranean coast. But their vacation is cut short when they are captured by the evil Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), who shoots Gina in front of Ray.
The art of subtelty is not something you usually expect to find in superhero films but the line must still be drawn at psycho killers singing and dancing to Talking Heads' 'Psycho Killer.' Vengeance has made many a superhero, and Ray swears it too before being killed. But the cruelty does not end there as RST appropriate the origin story to motivate him into killing for them, changing the face of his wife's killer each time he relives her death. It is all too predictable and derivative, as you see its Total Recall and Memento twists coming within the first act.
Director David SF Wilson's treatment of Bloodshot rarely lets us see Ray as a person, but more as a WMD with Diesel's enviable torso. Lamorne Morris as Wilfred Wigans offers some comic relief in the interludes, while Eiza González and Sam Heughan as fellow cybernetically enhanced soldiers Katie and Jimmy round out the cardboard cut-out ensemble.
Neither the characters nor the storytelling can elicit a genuine emotion through its 109-minute runtime. You almost forget the script was co-written by Eric Heisserer, who turned Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life into one of the greatest sci-fi films of the 21st century in Arrival.
Even the action set pieces have a been-done-before feel to them, and only fulfill their functional requirements. So much of Bloodshot is reminiscent of other films (many of which we have already mentioned), you start to wonder if there is a single original idea hiding underneath its typical Hollywood exterior. So much of it is typical of the superhero genre, it is hard to summon any more enjoyment from it.
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