From the writer of Kick Ass 2..! Actually, that’s a little harsh, as it is also hailing from the writer of Arrival, as smart a script as Hollywood has produced in the last decade. Bloodshot tells the story of Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) a marine we first meet on a successful mission in Kenya. Having completed his task, he takes his wife Gina (Talulah Riley) to the Amalfi Coast in Italy for a holiday. While there, they are both captured by mercenaries, led by Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), who demands to know the source of information that led to the Mombasa raid. When Ray is unable to comply, both he and his wife are murdered.
Next, Ray wakes with no memory, in a lab run by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce). Harting specialises in giving damaged soldiers fresh hope, having provided mechanical legs, substitutes for damaged eyes, and even a new respiratory system for his patients. Those patients have tended to go to work for him, the most senior being KT (Eiza González – the respiratory patient who is now resistant to poisonous gases, and whose breathing is now controlled by Emil). Ray learns that he has been brought back from the dead using a revolutionary nanotech which means his blood has been replaced with nanites that are able to repair him at speed, while greatly increasing his speed and strength (his relationship with pain is not really explored).
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As he retires to his quarters, Garrison begins to have visions of his past life: of Gina, and their murder. With his technological upgrades, he is able to hack remotely into the internet and utilise GPS and facial recognition records to identify his assailant. Over Dr Harting’s pleas for Ray to stand down, Garrison breaks from the facility to gain his revenge, finding himself able to absorb online instructional manuals at a speed necessary to allow him to fly a plane. Having completed his mission, he is returned to the facility, his memory wiped, and… well, the film begins to show us that everything is not as it seems. It is wise to go in knowing no more than this.
Act One of Bloodshot recalls a number of superior films. For a couple of examples, the reanimating of a hero killed in action recalls RoboCop, the type of upgrades he is given recalls, well, Upgrade. In a film that begins with a surplus of slow-mo from first time director David S.F. Wilson, the signs were not good that this would be any more than a rote derivative actioner. As it happens, the film is very flawed. As an adaptation of an existing comic book property, there is never any indication that Diesel is playing anything other than his stock cinematic character – even being in his trademark vest within minutes. Action varies from over-stylised to serviceable, and the visual design of this world offers nothing fresh. Indeed, the film even goes down the path of the top-down shot of the American city at night so overused in the current generation of films. Guy Pearce is wasted, with his character being transparent to a degree that this sentence cannot even qualify as a spoiler, and secondary characters lack any real development.
That said, as we reach the film’s second act, the story really starts to find its voice, setting up a more than serviceable plot that is based in an interesting mystery for the character to unpick. Having to do so without full command of his memory, leaves Bloodshot looking like a distant relative of Pearce’s own Memento. At 109 minutes, the film never outstays its welcome, and settles into a better than average B-movie action film. Although the final section of the film does drop away to something a little more of a basic set of showdowns, that middle portion of the story provides enough intrigue, anchored by a more than decent performance from Vin Diesel, to make this an entertaining watch.
The introduction midway of an analogue for something between Oracle and Alfred from the Batman universe, leading to an open-ended finale that leaves the property able to go literally anywhere, does suggest that this film was made with the idea of a franchise in mind. With Sony lacking too many of those in recent years, this is perfectly understandable. World events, in conjunction with a lacklustre marketing of the film, leave Bloodshot unlikely to get a second instalment. The film is not good enough for this to be any great loss, but it is good enough that no-one should feel overly short-changed if seeing this… while cinemas remain open, of course.