A film review by Craig J. Koban May 10, 2020

BLOODSHOT jj
½

2020, PG-13, 110 mins.

 

Vin Diesel as Ray Garrison / Bloodshot  /  Eiza González as KT  /  Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Nick Baris  /  Guy Pearce as Dr. Emil Harting  /  Toby Kebbell as Martin Axe  /  Sam Heughan as Jimmy Dalton  /  Talulah Riley as Gina DeCarlo  /  Lamorne Morris as Wilfred Wigens

 

Directed by Dave Wilson  /  Written by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer

With the possible exception of the RIDDICK themed sci-fi franchise, can anyone out there frankly remember any of Vin Diesel's non-FAST AND THE FURIOUS starring roles and films?  

Outside of PITCH BLACK, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK and RIDDICK, I'm hard pressed to recall (random order) THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, the xXx franchise, and BABYLON A.D. (to name a few) in any detail.  Now, I'm not talking about solid and under appreciated dramatic turns from the fiftysomething actor (like the criminally unseen FIND ME GUILTY), but rather action focused roles.  It seems like every genre entry attempted by the gravel voiced one seems like one more disposable placeholder entry before we reach the next unavoidable F&F sequel.   

I'm a bit more on the fence when it comes to his latest film outside of the Dominic Toreto led cinematic universe in BLOODSHOT (not to be confused with BLOODSPORT or even the vaguely similar sounding DEADPOOL), which, to be fair, definitely has an ambitious - if not somewhat derivative - comic book inspired premise, some genuinely creative action sequences and VFX work, and it looks more polished and expensive that its relative small $40-plus million budget would visually let on.  It's also a film that assuredly plays up to Diesel's strengths for being a raw physical on-screen presence with a monosyllabic gumption (plus, as the RIDDICK and, to a lesser degree, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY films have demonstrated, Diesel is a good fit for sci-fi).  I'd aptly label BLOODSHOT as a better than average pit stop beyond his much more famous muscle auto series, but as a standalone action sci-fi thriller, the film has very little lingering staying power.   

BLOODSHOT is an adaptation of the Valiant comic books of the same name (unread by me), and is sort of a weird amalgamation of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN with beyond-obvious winks to UNIVERSAL SOLDIER and TOTAL RECALL.  The premise here is the stuff of wish fulfillment super hero fantasies: A rough and rugged army man is killed in action, but is saved and resurrected  back to life with implanted tech that turns him into a newly minted super soldier with abilities that would make Steve Rogers blush with envy.  BLOODSHOT opens in relatively solid fashion by introducing us to one-man kick ass squad in Ray Garrison (Diesel), whose unique and unparalleled battlefield skills come in supremely handy during a very tense hostage situation. Saving the day, with minor gunshot wounds in tow, Garrison is granted some R&R with this trophy wife in Gina (WESTWORLD's Talulah Riley), during which time we're granted some very Michael Bay-ian, MTV music styled PG-13 love scenes. 

 

 

Okay, that last part is not the solid stuff I was mentioning.  Let me go on, though.

During a would-be peaceful vacation in Italy, Garrison is attacked and drugged by multiple adversaries, and when he awakens he's greeted by a sociopathic terrorist named Martin (Toby Kebbell), who threatens him with a cheeky dance set against the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" blaring on a radio in the background (yeah, a bit on the nose).  Martin also reveals that he has a kidnapped, bound, and gagged Gina, and demands some vital piece of Intel that Ray simply doesn't have.  

Martin then brutally shoots Ray and Gina to death. 

All of this occurs before the opening credits.  

So, yeah, pretty solid

In Frankenstein-like fashion, the KIA Ray awakens to find himself at the headquarters of a special off the books black ops group, overseen by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce, lending some class to the proceedings), who informs the initially frazzled Ray that his memories have been wiped, but in being brought back from the dead he's been technologically enhanced with millions of "nanites" that immediately can heal any wound - and I mean any wound - within seconds in pure Wolverine fashion.  That, and the nanites also grant him super human speed and dexterity and a pretty nifty ability to access computer networks with his mind.  Ray meets other "enhanced" fallen soldiers at the complex, and is befriended by Harting's assistant in KT (Eiza Gonzalez), who has been gifted a special mechanical device implanted below her neck that allows her to filter out all toxins.  Despite losing all memories of the past and a sense of identity, Ray acclimates to his powers rather well, but then his memories start to filter back in here and there from his previous life, leading to him becoming obsessed with finding Gina's killer.  But then, to complicate things, his memories just sporadically change, and the killer's identity changes in his own mind...hmmmmmm? 

So, it's easy to deduce where this plot is going from here, and, yup, the bionic handed Harting is indeed up to no good in trying to suppress Ray's real memories with fake ones so that he will do all of his nefarious business for him in the field.  Anyone that has seen UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (also featuring boosted up super soldiers) will be able to spot the eerie commonalities, not to mention that the idea of Ray struggling with the nature of reality and memories is straight out of TOTAL RECALL. Still, BLOODSHOT has some novel fun with its world building, and I especially liked the idea of these insect-like robots that float up and down Ray's bloodstream to reconstruct his body and tissue when required.  Unfortunately, this leads to one of the core deficiencies with BLOODSHOT in terms of tension: Since Ray's nanites can sew him up from the inside out at any time, that power makes him borderline invulnerable. He's like a video game hero with a God cheat code of infinite lives, an unkillable cyberman that can have any wound (even half of his face blown off) taken care of as quickly as he can walk from one side of a room to the other.  Outside of the duplicitous minded Harting having the ability to remotely "shut down" Ray and wipe his mental slate clean, there's not much that can harm this guy.  When he battles evil doers there's very little stakes involved. 

Still, BLOODSHOT director David S. F. Wilson (a former VFX artist, making his directorial debut) does manage to create some intense visual interest in his frequently well staged action set pieces.  There's a fairly bravura mid-movie sequence showcasing the newly enhanced Ray going after Martin and his goon squad in Budapest, which is shown in a fairly arresting fashion (noteworthy - and somewhat icky - is a super slow-mo shot of Ray's body being shredded by a maelstrom of bullets, only to then be regenerated in seconds...pretty cool).  There's also ample fun in the final act of the picture highlighting Ray going up against many of Harting's other robotically gifted henchmen (where these scenes lack in some credibly tactile CGI they make up for it in terms of sheer bone and metal crunching visceral impact).  I do wish, though, that BLOODSHOT didn't hide behind its relatively wimpy rating and instead fully embraced the type of gory and bombastic extremes of an R (which I think the makers here really wanted, but were too timid to deliver in fear of diminishing box office returns).  BLOODSHOT does push its PG-13 badge to the breaking point, but you can seriously tell at times that this film is pulling its...nanite infused punches. 

And for has much reliable physicality that Diesel brings to the proceedings here, he's still disappointingly lacking charisma in his lead role, which is probably not assisted but the script not developing this hero's personality much.  Toby Kebbell, a fine actor when given proper opportunities, is squandered here in an underwritten role.  Faring better is Pearce as the chief antagonist, who brings a creepy energy that's not all that much on the written page.  Even better is NEW GIRL's Lamorne Morris showing up late in the film as a brilliant hacker that also engages in some meta commentary about action film clichés (granted, that latter element of mocking genre troupes within the film are distractingly half hearted at best).  At least he brings some much needed levity to the picture and gives it an unpredictable pulse of comic intrigue that's quite infectious, especially when paired opposite of the perpetually stoic and poker faced co-star.   

I truly wanted to embrace this latest Diesel powered endeavor, and it has a lot of good going for it (it's entertaining in modest dosages, but in a mindless kind of way) and it contains some stand out moments of arresting imagery that elevates it above complete mediocrity.  But too much of BLOODSHOT feels like it's trying to set up better BLOODSHOT sequels to come, which is hinted at in the final moments (having said that, this film is another box office casualty of our current Covid-19 pandemic, so the chances of that happening are slim to none, and slim just left town).  Again, compared to other past action films featuring the bald and granite cut actor, this one offers up kernels of hope and optimism for a fresh new franchise starter for him, only building towards ultimate letdown.  It's too bad, but the BLOODSHOT ain't bad, just a tad misguided.  On  FAST AND FURIOUS rating scale, I'd give it somewhere between a 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS and a TOYKO DRIFT.  

Does that make sense?

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