Only time will tell if ‘Bloodshot’ — based on the Valiant Comics character of the same name — will spell the beginning of a brand new cinematic universe, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or even the DC Extended Universe. But if Vin Diesel’s latest action bonanza (hiding in plain sight as a superhero story) is anything to go by, we’re in for the ride — even if it’s a bumpy one.
The comic book adaptation is unlike any other movie you’ve seen in the genre in the recent past. And while it would be easy to dismiss it as a pulpy, timepass affair, the movie manages to pack in a few neat surprises.
In ‘Bloodshot’, US Marine Ray Garrison (Diesel) gets killed and brought back to life in a newly enhanced form by a shadowy tech outfit, led by Guy Pearce’s Dr Emil Harting. Garrison’s new life is thanks to the millions of little nanites that now make up his bloodstream. This new life also comes with the tiny glitch that he remembers nothing of his past life, including the fact that his wife was murdered alongside him.
The clichés are as intact as ever. There’s the blonde (and dead) wife, the murderous villain (Toby Kebbell) dancing awkwardly to Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’, a montage where our hero figures out his powers and terse dialogues about swift vengeance.
Even the aforementioned powers aren’t anything you’ve not already seen. He can punch through anything (punching bags, concrete walls), he can heal faster than Wolverine, his brain can parse through unlimited amounts of data in a millisecond (hi Cyborg) and he can download the manual of an aeroplane and fly it in a matter of minutes (anybody remember ‘Matrix’?).
But through all the derivative tropes, Diesel’s charisma keeps you alive. Whether he’s busy figuring out the mystery of his death or he’s finally putting two and two together and going after the baddies, Diesel’s Garrison looks lived in and completely in control.
Rounding out the cast is Eiza Gonzales’ KT, another enhanced veteran from Dr Harting’s lab; Sam Heughan’s Jimmy Dalton, another enhanced individual; and Lamorne Morris with a terrible English accent as Wilfred Wigans, a coding whizz. While Gonzales’ KT satisfactorily does her job as the no-nonsense, female sidekick and is compelling as an action hero, Heughan is wasted as the unnecessarily hostile Dalton, who predictably goes up against Garrison. Then there’s Pearce, an actor who can bring gravitas to any role. In ‘Bloodshot’, he spews tech babble like it’s a well-worn nursery rhyme, but try as he might, he fails to elevate a script that could have done with a lot more workshopping.
And that’s this superhero story’s biggest failing. Granted that it’s a no-brainer action film, but the least the movie could have done was to avoid trying to sound deeper than it is. Own the cheese, we say. Lean in. Go all the way.
All in all, despite its flaws, director David S F Wilson’s film offers a glimmer of something new and unpredictable in a genre that’s begging to be injected with some new blood. New cinematic universe or not, we’ll be ready for a second instalment if they’re up to making one.