VOD film review: Bloodshot
Josh Slater-Williams | On 27, Mar 2020
Director: David S. F. Wilson
Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Guy Pearce, Sam Heughan
A cinematic debut for one of the flagship characters of the hitherto unadapted Valiant Comics company, Bloodshot may feature actors popular from 2010s film and television, but its atmosphere is very much in line with the comic book movies around during Valiant’s 1990s heyday. Back when, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman films aside, the live-action comic book films making it to the screen tended to be centred around comparatively obscure characters such as The Mask and The Crow, with relatively little fidelity to their source material and, with the odd exception, journeymen filmmakers simply making the most of mid-range budgets.
Though heavier on CGI than even The Mask, thanks to its premise of a regenerating super-soldier (Vin Diesel) enhanced by advanced technology, Bloodshot’s vibe is definitely that of a mid-1990s B-blockbuster throwback, rather than the overcomplicated mythology of your modern Marvel and DC movies. In this case, that is not a compliment.
The film’s screenplay, credited to Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer, is abysmal when it comes to dialogue and comedic quips, but story-wise, there are nuggets of interesting ideas concerning fears about eugenics and militarisation of the human body, alongside rebuilding yourself after a legacy of abuse and trauma, and ‘broken’ people connecting with others with similar baggage. And there’s even some interrogation of superhero narrative conventions, albeit delivered through flaccid comic relief characters.
A director like, say, Ang Lee, with a proven track record for action films with an actual soul, might have been able to salvage the enterprise; his recent Gemini Man certainly has its pleasures despite its own script that was kicking around Hollywood since the 1990s. But visual effects artist David S.F. Wilson, making his feature debut as a director, never pulls off particularly striking set-pieces, nor does he extract especially engaging performances from his ensemble of usually reliable players – Eiza González admittedly fares the best.
The film moves along at a decent pace, but proves unnecessarily confusing thanks to certain editing choices and a lack of specificity concerning locations and the passage of time. One glaring example comes when Diesel’s Ray Garrison has a conversation in what is explicitly specified as London, England, before the character recalls a memory. Then the film cuts straight from that flashback to Ray suddenly back in his car, his vehicle struck by an armoured truck, with Ray pursued on foot through a locale that appears be somewhere vaguely in either of the Americas. The mix of apparent California licence plates and the Australian-ish accents of panicked extras lends the scene no clarity. Diesel lives his life a quarter of a mile at a time in the Fast & Furious films, but in Bloodshot he seems to travel thousands of miles in seconds.
Despite its occasional winks to superhero storytelling, the film has this strange sense of shame towards its comic book origins, and not just because Diesel’s Ray is never named as Bloodshot onscreen. In the comics, Bloodshot has a very distinctive look, with chalky white skin and a big red dot on the centre of his chest. In the film, Diesel just looks like Diesel, except during two specific action sequences, both of which involve his skin getting coated in substances that give him a vaguely chalky look, accentuating a red nanite glow in his chest. In one case, it’s smoke and ash from the aftermath of a partial building collapse. In the other it is, hilariously, thanks to a flour delivery truck he’s crashed to trap his prey. Deliberate or not, this is the funniest moment in the film.