Vin Diesel Gets Put Back Together to Seek Revenge in Stylishly Entertaining ‘Bloodshot’
“Bloodshot” may not be a great film or even a particularly original one. Yet it’s executed with enough energy and style to make it a kind of expensive guilty pleasure. If it looks and thinks like a comic book that’s because it’s based on one and doesn’t pretend to be any more or less. This is not a slight on the movie. On the contrary, it can actually be a lot of fun. Vin Diesel joins the ranks of muscled heroes who become half machine, and obliterates his enemies within a plot that also functions as a brain teaser.
Diesel plays Ray Garrison, a soldier who gets kidnapped with his wife Gina (Talulah Riley) and watches her be mercilessly executed by madman Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell). Axe puts a bullet in Ray and it’s lights out. Somehow Ray reawakens however, and it’s because he has been resurrected by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce). The doctor runs an organization named Project Rising Spirit which rebuilds fallen soldiers and turns them into deadly mercenaries. To do this Ray has been restructured with nanotechnology which essentially turns his blood into nanites that can constantly rebuild his body. If someone fires a bullet at his face let’s say, the nanites immediately put it back together. You get the idea. Included in the team is KT (Eiza Gonzalez), another former soldier. With his new features Ray immediately sets off to find his wife’s killer and get revenge. But wait, Ray may not realize he’s living in a kind of invented reality injected into his brain by Harting.
Based on a bestselling Valiant comic book title, “Bloodshot” is a cousin to action films like “Robocop” and “Total Recall” where the hero survives death and finds themselves trapped in an uncertain reality. While we’ve been here before, director Dave Wilson pulls it off well. He doesn’t go for a plain, mundane style and gives scenes some real exhilaration. Shooting action is its own art form and Wilson gives us moments that feel taken from rich comic book panels. Ray’s first mission to take down Axe culminates with a tunnel shootout filmed within layers of smoke, smooth editing and crimson shots of Vin Diesel emerging in slow motion through debris. Instead of making the violence gratuitous Wilson pulls it off like ballet. There’s even a bit of grandiosity to a titanic elevator battle where Ray battles another half-machine soldier of fortune working for Harting, who happens to be equipped with metal tentacles. The real stars are the special effects team. Just in terms of CGI craft there are some memorable shots, like Diesel taking a bullet through the face before the nanites put it back together like sand particles.
“Bloodshot” is a retread to a style of action filmmaking where it’s mostly about the aesthetic, about the way a big guy like Diesel looks while jumping out of a speeding car. But it’s also smart enough to offer a coherent plot. This is an action romp in the vein of films like “Edge of Tomorrow,” where it also likes to mess with our perceptions by screwing with reality. It begins as Ray wanting to avenge his wife’s death, but then it becomes clear he’s a lab rat being injected with nanotechnology and possibly with false memories. Is he fated to simply awaken and carry out the same mission over and over, only with a different target each time? Is his wife even real? This always adds an extra bit of tragedy to the hero, since a character like Ray is left battling both villains and his own mind.
The characters in “Bloodshot” are likeable enough as action movie standards. Vin Diesel has been doing this kind of role for so long he seems to cruise through it. Guy Pearce is having fun playing the usual evil genius and Eiza Gonzalez is perfect in the role of the required action story heroine, looking great while taking no prisoners. The most fun we have is with Lamorne Morris as Wilfred Wigans, a master hacker who becomes Ray aka Bloodshot’s sidekick. He gets the best lines (“I need some real friends!”) and brings some necessary comic relief from the rest of the cast, who are all required to look dead serious with clenched jaws during the entire film.
“Bloodshot” follows a standard formula where what matters is the execution. Good schlock is preferable to senseless gore or pretentious bores. It’s cliché to say you get your money’s worth but this one delivers as it promises. These days with viruses causing shutdowns and mass uncertainty, a dose of escapism done with decent craft isn’t the worst antidote.
“Bloodshot” opens March 13 in theaters nationwide.