It doesn’t take long to discover “Bloodshot” is Vin Diesel’s greatest hits, for better and for worse. Pool together the beach-butts-and-biceps showcase from the “Fast and Furious” series, the shamelessly geeky sci-fi from “Riddick” and the rip-roaring ridiculous machismo of “xXx,” and “Bloodshot” begins to form, like nanites stitching body parts that should’ve been left for dead.
After successfully taking out a Terrorist™, U.S. soldier Ray Garrison (Diesel) is captured by Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), a psychopathic criminal who threatens to kill Ray’s wife, Gina (Talulah Riley), unless Ray gives up his intel. Ray is unable, so Martin murders both Gina and Ray in cold blood.
End of movie, right? Not quite. Ray wakes up in the labs of RST, a revolutionary prosthetics company who’ve not only helped ex-soldiers regain use of missing limbs or damaged organs, but have also improved them to nigh-superhuman levels.
Leading the lab is Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), who informs the curiously undead beefcake that Ray is the first successful full-body prototype of a nanite transfusion.
These microscopic machines swimming in Ray’s blood give him incredible strength, and because they can repair muscle tissue in seconds, make him almost indestructible. Think Captain America, Hulk and Wolverine put together, sans claws.
Now, teamed up with Harting and his crew of supersoldiers, Ray would find new purpose in helping the global common good, but first things first: revenge.
At this point, I expect to see the game’s title screen and press “X” to play. Makes sense — this is the feature debut of Dave Wilson, whose background is in creating cinematic trailers for games such as “Mass Effect 2” and “The Elder Scrolls Online.” I only wish the CGI were better than a PS4 game.
Ray’s about as complex as the standard character option; when he does talk, it’s a nonsensical jumble of “I do things my way!” and “I will find you…and I will END YOU!” Vin Diesel does well cycling through his old characters. It’s always fun to see Diesel tap into Dominic Toretto or xXx, but I wouldn’t dare pretend these are shades of Ray Garrison.
While it suffers from choppy editing and the limitations of a PG-13 rating, the movie takes fun approaches to action. Before Ray gets the nanite makeover, he can already do more with his grip than six mercenaries with guns. He’s already put Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris to shame, and the movie leans hard into how ridiculous these setpieces can be. What happens when people come into contact with an exploding grenade? They’re dismembered in a fiery bloodbath, right? Not in PG-13 “Bloodshot” — this movie’s got ragdoll physics and it loves them. Honestly, I love it too. There’s something hilarious about the audacity to laugh in the face of real-world consequences this movie taps into.
For the most part, the supporting cast feels like the game’s NPCs (non-playable characters): expositional vehicles, eye candy or plain ol’ stereotypes. “Outlander’s” Sam Heughan stars as Jimmy Dalton. I liked Eiza González as a bank-robbing lover in “Baby Driver,” and she has the face for a badass action star, but the movie gives her little to work with outside of being a plot device. Also, and I know I’m exaggerating here, but underutilizing Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Kong: Skull Island”) the way this movie does should be a federal crime. In the time he does get to show off his stuff, I tell you, friends, I wanted an entire movie about him. Even Pearce, who’s typically solid, feels like he’s playing an alternate universe version of his “Iron Man 3” character. It pains me to say it, but these people come off as plug-and-play archetypes.
My two favorite performances are the comic relief. I like Siddharth Dhananjay playing Harting’s dorky I.T. guy (a title he resents, but like anyone will pay attention to him). For a movie that already doesn’t take itself too seriously, he helps lighten all the sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. However, my favorite character, the scene-stealer, is Wilfred Wigans (Lamorne Morris), a genius coding prodigy. Every time he was on screen, my audience and I lost it, laughing at his quirky, not-quite-socialized sense of humor. The movie risks losing momentum in the middle and Wigans brings it back up tenfold. I’ll only accept a sequel if he returns; give Morris all the movies.
It’s a weird beast, this movie. The two screenwriting credits go to Jeff Wadlow (“Truth or Dare”) and Eric Heisserer (“Bird Box”) and I see a bit of both of their worlds. While the movie relishes in the absurd and gleefully stupid, it also exhibits a fair bit of self-awareness and infuses a few cool sci-fi concepts. In the span of a few minutes, Ray will have the world-breaking ability to use the nanites to hack anything, even government servers, in seconds…but then he’ll try shooting at a bulletproof window. Did I mention his punches are strong enough to crack concrete beams? But no, Ray, you keep shooting that armored car.
Look: For most people, I think this movie’s gonna go in one eye and out the other. This is the kind of film four-movie combo packs were made for. However, the weirdness works for me. Some of this is so-bad-it’s-good territory; some of it is just a product of Vin Diesel’s influence. His persona hasn’t changed in nearly 20 years, so if you’re a fan of these macho vanity projects, I think “Bloodshot” will fit nicely in the Diesel repertoire.
“Bloodshot” is in theaters now.
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Featured image credit: Columbia Pictures
Daniel Berrios watches movies in Dallas with his wife and three meowing children. When not watching movies, he’s likely writing about them or discussing them on his YouTube channel. Outside of film, he enjoys “Borderlands,” cooking and playing a guitar that desperately needs new strings.