Published Mar 13, 2020As Bloodshot, the new Vin Diesel action vehicle, hits cinemas, it is becoming very clear that the algorithm is broken. This doesn't so much feel like a movie built around a story or interesting ideas, but more a collection of random synapses firing from other, better movies — not all of which are actually good, either. If Bloodshot was a band, it would be Theory of a Deadman.
Diesel plays Ray Garrison, a career soldier who is kidnapped after completing a job, and subsequently murdered alongside his wife by a gangly reprobate (Toby Kebbell) dancing to Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer." Despite the inconvenience of being dead, Garrison awakens in a lab in seemingly perfect health. Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) has apparently rebuilt him (gentlemen, we have the technology) by replacing his blood with "nanites" that repair his wounds as he encounters them. In addition to this healing factor, Ray is also afflicted with memory loss, making him an Adamantium skeleton shy of being a total Wolverine ripoff. He's also introduced to a team of similarly afflicted former soldiers given augmented machinery to replace body parts that were lost in the line of duty, whether that's legs, eyes or lungs.
Ray gets triggered into remembering what happened and goes on a rampage to exact his revenge against the man — and his many minions — who killed his wife. With this coming within the film's opening 30 minutes, a twist is very clearly telegraphed and it's unsurprisingly connected to Pearce's mad scientist with a bionic arm.
What follows is Ray's principled dimwit repeatedly succumbing to manipulation before setting his sights on his true rival. It's part Frankenstein and part Terminator without actually tapping too deeply into the social commentary inherent in such a story. There are moments that tease criticism of the military industrial complex, and others that explore the thematic surface of how an individual's past doesn't necessarily define their future, but these are inevitably tossed away without much thought or care, in favour of one of Bloodshot's many indistinguishable combat scenes.
This ain't John Wick. At one point in production, the minds behind that Keanu Reeves franchise-launcher, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, were attached to direct. If their fight choreography happened to be the only difference, Bloodshot would have been greatly improved.
Screenwriters Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer seem to know that it's all very stupid, as they clumsily inject the script with self-aware references to the silliness at the heart of the plot via a pair of programmers who serve as the comic relief to Diesel's stoic earnestness.
As poorly as Ray's situation is explained — they might as well have had Dr. Harting proclaim "science!" — the biggest problem at the heart of Bloodshot is how aggressively mediocre it is. There is no depth to Ray, especially as his past is revealed to be less accurate than the audience has been led to believe. And it doesn't lean heavily enough into total schlock to make it entertaining in a trashy way.
Instead, Bloodshot is a dull origin story that brings nothing fresh to the genre and doesn't play the hits with any kind of urgency or creative flair. It needed to either provide a new wrinkle or ramp up the fun, and Diesel probably wasn't the right vessel to make either of those things happen.