One of the early cinematic casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, Bloodshot was released in cinemas in early March, getting a brief theatrical window before cinemas were indefinitely shut down. The film was then put onto digital platforms earlier than planned, coming in at the top of the Amazon Prime home release chart in its first week. It makes sense that this would have a better life on-demand than it would have vying for attention in multiplexes. It may have an A-list star leading its cast, but everything else about Bloodshot is much more in the spirit of a bargain bin action flick. But that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.
Diesel plays US Marine Ray Garrison, living his best life taking out bad guys across the world and coming home to relax with his beautiful wife, Gina (Talulah Riley) on the Amalfi Coast. That life is brought to an abrupt end after both Ray and his wife are murdered following his latest mission. But death is just the beginning for Ray as he is resurrected by Rising Spirit Tech, a company that develops cybernetic enhancements for the US military. Now with millions of nanites swimming in his bloodstream, Ray is nigh on invincible, super strong, and able to connect to any satellite database in the world. And he only has one thing on his mind: revenge.
The RoboCop similarities are pretty obvious from the off, a man brought back from the dead and given new life through technology to become the ultimate killing machine, with their fight for autonomy and freedom becoming the main thrust of the proceedings. So, from the off, it’s not a very original movie, but it has some fun with the concept with the action straddling the line between being PG-13 friendly and R-rated. It’s a tension which sometimes results in some cool images, but can often feel like the film is holding back from really letting rip.
Bloodshot is also a bit of a mess narratively, with the film sometimes barely giving its protagonist that much attention as it operates through similar action bears. The editing is all over the place, the special effects incredibly overcooked, with a mixed bag of a supporting cast filling in the gaps between the shoot outs and punch ups. Eiza Gonzalez provides strong support as another soldier who has been augmented by RST’s tech. Guy Pearce is on the right side of hammy as the scientist behind RST. while Outlander’s Sam Heughan delivers a fun level of smarmy asshole energy as another soldier enhanced by RST, jealous of Ray’s capabilities. The weak link is Lamorne Wallace, who for some reason is sporting a British accent as tech-head Wigans, leading to a performance that feels embarrassing for both us and the usually dependable comic actor. Diesel himself grumbles through proceedings with an air of disinterest that leaves Ray feeling like a bit too much of a blank slate to invest in.
Bloodshot does not feel dissimilar in spirit to the type of high concept action movies Schwarzenegger and Stallone would have gleefully done in the 80’s and 90’s. It is, in its own way, a refreshing approach to a comic-book adaptation, reminding one of the early days of cinematic comic-book outings that led to such bizarre (and admittedly mostly rubbish) adaptations such as Spawn, Daredevil and The Phantom. It also ends up feeling like a 90’s/00’s blockbuster for pretty much all the wrong reasons as well, particularly as it dives into its over designed punch up of a finale. The effects in the final fight scene that takes place down an elevator shaft features rubbery CGI that wouldn’t look out of place in 2004, but here in 2020, they feel shoddy, rushed and lacking in tactility.
It is hard to completely dislike Bloodshot. It’s admittedly a very pedestrian action movie, moving through the motions, with an over-reliance on video-game-esque visual effects. But it’s also a movie that’s kinda weird, and all the better for it when it gives in to those impulses, making it fittingly entertaining across its runtime. There’s a twist in the narrative that while not wholly original is played well enough to take you a little by surprise, and whenever you think you’ve got a film’s number only for it to pull the rug from under you, that’s a fun feeling. So, while it may be faint praise to say Bloodshot is occasionally quite fun, that is very much the case. It’s a fairly routine CG-heavy action movie, with some cringe-worthy performances and a habit of over-egging the pudding, but the pockets of weirdness go a long way to making Bloodshot a more entertaining affair than you may have been expecting.
Dir: David S. F. Wilson
Scr: Jeff Wadlow, Eric Heisserer, based on the Valiant comic-book created by Kevin VanHook, Don Perlin, Bob Layton
Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Guy Pearce, Lamorne Morris, Talulah Riley, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Prd: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe, Dinesh Shamdasani, Vin Diesel
DOP: Jacques Jouffret
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Run time: 109 mins
Bloodshot is out on Blu-Ray and DVD from June 1st 2020.