Bloodshot (2020) Review
AN INTERESTING PREMISE THAT FIZZLES OUT
In the cinematic age of superheroes blockbusters dominating the box office and the general moviegoer’s attention, action movies are scrambling for attention. Big named mask and costumed characters from Marvel and DC comic books have certainly been at the forefront of lucrative “moneymaking”, while other publishing companies have been approached for a theatrical adaptation; mining their genuine thrills and untapped potential for some possible “movie gold” on the silver screen in these endeavors. This includes several cinematic installments such as Hellboy (both the Guillermo del Toro films and Neil Marshall’s 2019 reboot), Kingsman (Matthew Vaughan’s film series that’s based on Dave Gibbon’s and Mark Millar’s comic book series), Big Hero 6 (based on the Marvel comics series), and several others. Now, Sony / Columbia Pictures and director David S. F. Wilson presents the latest comic book film adaptation with the release of Bloodshot, based off of the Valiant Comics of the same name. Does the movie find an entertaining value within its premise or does something get lost within its filmmaking translation?
A skilled military solider with extreme pride in his service, Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) barely survives a recent mission overseas to help shut down cover hostage situation. Taking a bullet for his country, the scar joins the many others on Ray’s body, with the solider hoping to heal on a special getaway with his wife, Gina (Taluah Riley), rekindling their romance after time apart of Ray’s active duty. Breaking up their little honeymoon is terrorist Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), who demands information on the operation from Ray, killing Gina as a way to prove his point. With no way to reason with the madman, Ray is murdered by Martin, only to wake up inside Rising Spirt Technologies, greeted by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), who oversees a billion-dollar operation that resurrects the dead and the broken, using special nanotechnology to transform corporeal donations into specialized enhanced war mercenaries. Ray learns he’s been pumped full of nanites, gifting him super-strength and the ability to instantly heal, and while his memory has been wiped to make him a human computer, he manages to recall all that was lost, setting out to seek revenge against Martin. However, Ray soon discovers that not all is what it seems as Dr. Harting’s true intent comes to light.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I mentioned above, the age of comic book adaptations and superhero blockbuster have certainly been “all the rage” with the average moviegoers as various movies studios (over the past decade) has adapted a plethora of comic book / superhero projects. Of course, so have brought reward, with shared cinematic universe bringing in big dollar box office results in blockbuster tentpoles throughout the years, while some have been rather “one and down”; never really catching on beyond its premise and failing to connect with its moviegoing audience. Of the smaller variety, I do how studios are trying lesser known properties. Heck, I didn’t even know that Kingsman movies were based on a comic book. It goes to show you that the idea of trying something a little bit different than famed / popular comic book titles can be useful when adapting into feature film. I can hope to see more obscure smaller titles make their way to the big screen.
This brings me back to talking about Bloodshot, a 2020 action movie that’s based on the Valiant Comics of the same name. As mentioned in the paragraph above, there have been smaller / less-known comic book adaptation popping up here and there, with studios them buying up for a cinematic treatment. Thus, I really haven’t read any of the comic book source material of which Bloodshot comes from, so my review is gonna be solely on my thoughts on the movie and not so much in the translation of page to screen (i.e. what was added, removed, or changed). Announcement was very “low key” as I really didn’t hear much about it. I have heard that Vin Diesel was gonna be in a sci-fi action film, but nothing beyond that to get hyped about. I finally saw the film’s movie trailer a few months back and it looked somewhat decent. Yes, it caught my attention and looked pretty interesting, but it kind of gave me a sort of “been there, done that”; a kind of revenge action…. of which the genre has certainly had plenty of those narrative previously told. So, I planned on seeing Bloodshot, but I wasn’t eager “must see” film for me to watch. However, with the impending news of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the US, I wasn’t sure if I was gonna be able to see the movie in theaters as news / rumors stated that movie theater chains were gonna closed due to the pandemic. Fortunately, I was able to see Bloodshot on the very last day that my movie theater was open (the next day they closed). So….what did I think of the film? Well, it was decent, but nothing grand. While its action / sci-fi premise was interesting, Bloodshot just seems like a “run-of-the-mill” action revenge movie that borrows heavily on similar past projects in a cobbled-up version of its own. There’s some visual flair to movie and it’s never boring, but nothing truly stand out nor is quite memorable in the grand scheme of action endeavors or comic book film adaptations.
Bloodshot is directed by David S. F. Wilson, whose previous works includes various cinematic trailers and CG supervisor sequences in video games such as Mass Effect 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and The Division. With his background in boisterous cinematics, Wilson seems like a suitable choice in helming a movie like Bloodshot of which he makes his theatrical feature length debut. In this regard, he certainly does do a decent job in his capacity. The movie isn’t super great, but I’ll mention that below. Suffice to say that Wilson makes Bloodshot a have good run; approaching the source material with the intent of creating a spectacle of sorts and shaping the feature with plenty of action heavy sequences….one that fits like a video game cinematic cutscenes. There’s a definitely a visual “taste” that Wilson brings to the proceedings; hitting a lot of action cues here and there and never ever feeling dull or boring. Speaking of which, the movie actually moves at a good pace, with the feature’s runtime clocking in at around 109 minutes (one hour and forty-nine minutes). So, whether you either love it or hate the movie, Bloodshot never is dull, with Wilson directing the feature to be a fun-oriented action that has plenty of visual flair and spectacle to its narrative. In addition, Wilson puts a unique spin on the material; presenting the film with an initial setup (for Bloodshot) as a sort of “jumping off point” for new comic book adaptation playing field (no big-name superheroes or costumed crusaders). Thus, Wilson doesn’t make the movie have a modern-day superhero aesthetics (like a MCU or DCEU endeavor), but still makes for a decent action blockbuster.
In its presentation, Bloodshot seems like a typical modest style blockbuster feature film; boasting plenty of large-scale action and a handful of slick CGI visuals to help elevate some of the more intense action sequences in the film’s story. The set designs and locations are well-utilized that have both a familiar feeling as well as few that have a sci-fi feeling (more so the Rising Spirit Technology areas). Thus, the main “behind the scenes” team, including Tom Brown (production design), Kimberly A. Tillman (costume designs), and Jacques Jouffret (cinematography). Even the film’s score, which was composed Steven Jablonsky, delivers a rousing score to accompany the feature throughout its many scenes (boisterous action or soft character dialogue moments). The film’s visuals are good, but can be a mixed bag, but I’ll mention that below.
Unfortunately, Bloodshot seems to stumble more than it takes in its cinematic entertainment strides; drumming up several critical problems along its proceedings and executions. The big thing that immediately stands out is the overall premise of the feature. Yes, I mentioned above that it was a cool premise and actually worked, but it ultimately fizzles out halfway through the feature. The gimmick making the film’s main character a weaponized tool (aka a super soldier with a hidden agenda by those who gifted him) isn’t quite the revolutionary idea, but it is something that certainly captured my attention. So, the first half of the movie is compelling in that regard. However, after the second half, Bloodshot loses that steam and ultimately winds up being quite generic and boring. In truth, much of the film is riddled with a certain predictable formula and generic-esque nature, which stems from a several reasons. First and foremost, the feature’s script, which was penned by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heissrer, is rather simplistic. Sure, it hits all the right elements of a sci-fi action story (throw in a bit of revenge twist), but its all pretty straightforward and leaves nothing but a whole “been there, done that” feeling; utilizing recycled plots beats and formulaic progression that does little to stimulate entertainment….except for a barrage of actions scenes. In truth, nothing about Bloodshot stands out and just feels like the film’s story is borrowing heavily upon other movie ideas. There’s a little bit of Robocop, Taken, Minority Report, and several other films that Bloodshot’s script takes from and tries to past of as its own, which doesn’t work. In conjunction with that idea, the script doesn’t really make the characters endearing and / or likeable as much as the film wants them to be. So, you (as the viewer) don’t really care much for them, with the script creating shallow or underdeveloped characters that are caricatures unto themselves (more on that below).
The other problem could possibly stem from is in Wilson’s inexperience as a film director. Of course, as first attempts go, he does an admirable job (I’ve seeing far worst), but, while he has a good grasp on visual aesthetics, he relies too heavily on them and not so on character development and making the feature stand on its own merits as much as trying to create “wow” moments, which don’t work as well. Additionally, while the movie’s action is quite heavy and appealing, it never really stands out at being memorable or awe-inspiring. There are some cool staged events of action sequences, yet what’s presented in Bloodshot seems muted and wonky. Some of these problematic criticisms stems from the film’s visual effects, which are not quite up to par on the industry standards of making cleverly utilized. Yes, some parts do work, but there many (and do mean many) scenes where CGI visual effect shots look at little bit flimsy and dated; clearly showcasing the sloppiness of some pivotal scenes (i.e. the entire elevator fight sequence). This also extends to some of the camera work, especially in the whole “shaky camera” manipulation movement that’s heavily used in the movie. Of course, this technique is utilized to try and capture a sort of frenetic / frenzy body movement of its various characters its focusing on (i.e a chase scene or action sequence). However, this technique is overused in the movie and creates a sort of wonky and disjointed feeling when used. There were a few times that I was getting a headache of watching the whole shaky cam movement that it became a distraction for me in viewing the scene (couldn’t tell what was going on).
The cast in Bloodshot is okay-ish and sort of a mixed bag. Yes, there are some recognizable names attached to this project and some do turn a decent enough performance for the various characters that they play, but most do not truly shine or act memorable in the film. This is mostly due to the film’s characteristic and development being rather generic and formulaic and not so much in the acting department. This is clearly pinpointed in the case of Bloodshot’s main protagonist character of Ray Garrison, who is played by actor Vin Diesel. Of course, Diesel, known for his roles in the Fast and Furious franchise as well as XXX and Guardians of the Galaxy, has proven to be the lead role in various action-oriented features (i.e. the alpha male lead). So, doing a project like this, is something Diesel is quite capable and comfortable doing, without feeling out of place or wonky. Thus, Diesel is perfectly fine as Ray and certainly carries the weight of the movie on his shoulders for most of the film’s action and drama beats…. even though he can be a bit wooden with his dialogue a few times. However, the character development of Ray is quite thin and is mostly rendered to the standard military man seeking revenge; a character build that’s atypical for action movies. Much like Gerard Butler, Diesel is fine in the role, but is surrounded by mediocre story beats and characters.
The same can be said with much of the other players of the Rising Spirt Technology organization, who are simply generic stock-like characters, despite being handled / performed by talented individuals. A prime of example of this is in the character of Dr. Emil Harting, the overseer mastermind behind Rising Spirt. Played by actor Guy Pearce, known for his roles in Memento, L.A. Confidential, and Prometheus, the character of Dr. Harting is the stereotypical scientist / tycoon mogul whose agenda plays a part with the main protagonist, but it’s quite clear that he has ulterior motives. Its’ definitely a straightforward character, despite the attempts to make his motives ambiguous as this archetype has been done and redone many times over. Pearce is fine in the role; playing up the suave and methodically calculating individual of Dr. Harting, but its generic at best. The other team members that work alongside Ray at Rising Spirt Technology (working under Dr. Harting), including actress Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver and Alita: Battle Angel) as KT, actor Sam Heughan (Outlander and The Spy Who Dumped Me) as Dalton, and actor Alex Hernandez (UnReal and Hemlock Grove) as Dibbs, are relatively okay and are, more or less, visual stock-like characters. Sure, KT gets some screen time as a somewhat female companion to Ray and Dalton comes off as the secondary “baddie” in the feature, but they end up being thinly and hollow for much of the feature. Even Dibbs gets pushed aside and doesn’t evolve beyond his initial setup. It’s just a disappointment.
The only character that feels really “out of place” in Bloodshot’s narrative is the character of Wilfred Wiggins, a computer programmer who is familiar with Rising Sprit’s technology and gets entangled with Ray’s plight. Played by actor Lamorne Morris (New Girl and Barbershop: The Next Cut), the character of Wiggins tried to infuse a lot of the film’s comedic beats in this otherwise gravitas sci-fi action feature, which does seem forced more often than not. There are few scenes that garnished a chuckle from me, but Wiggins (and proximity Morris’s performance) just feel unnecessary in the film and creates a sort of disjointed feeling whenever on-screen. The rest of the cast, including actress Talulah Riley (Westworld and Pride & Prejudice) as Ray’s wife, Gina Garrison, actor Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (Atomic Blonde and Alpha) as Nick Baris, and actor Toby Kebbell (Warcraft and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as Martin Axe, are very supporting minor players in the story. Despite their importance in a handful of scenes, these characters have limited screen time and only suffice to serve the narrative forward (progression). Although, the talents that play them are relatively good, none of them make a lasting / memorable impression.
Ray Garrison certainly finds himself in a strange circumstance; caught between his humanity and as a weaponized tool in the movie Bloodshot. Director David S. F. Wilson’s latest film takes the Valiant Comics creation and adapts it for the big-screen; translating the source material into a sci-fi action-oriented origin story for its chief character to play around in. While the intriguing premise remains the core attraction of the feature as well as a few action scenes / visual cues and Diesel’s leading man role (steadfast, but not great), the film struggles to find a memorable beat within its bland narrative, especially its predictable plot, bloated dialogue, uninteresting / unlikeable characters, messy CGI action, and too much heavy reliance on shaky camera techniques. To me, this movie was mediocre. I wasn’t disappointed by this movie as I didn’t have “high hopes” for it, with some scenes piquing my interest, but it wasn’t as cohesively sound and / or memorable as some might think it is. Thus, my recommendation is a “iffy choice” as some might like it, while others will probably not. It’s really hard to say (just depends on your flavor action style…. I guess). While the film’s ending is prompted for a possible sequel, I do have feeling that a second installment is unlikely to materialize. In the end, Bloodshot was some decent action scenes and visual effects to appeal to those of the sci-fi action variety, but its story’s interesting premise just ends up fizzling out in a flat and throwaway feature.
2.8 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)
Released On: March 13th, 2020
Reviewed On: April 8th, 2020
Bloodshot is 109 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some suggestive material, and language