Dominating the box offices with gonzo blockbusters such as the Fast franchise wasn’t enough for Vin Diesel. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before Diesel would take it upon himself to dabble in the behemoth takeover of comic book movies. With Columbia Pictures acquiring the rights to Bloodshot in 2012 (a Valiant Comics character), it wasn’t until April of 2015 that anything began to take off. A five-picture deal in the works, John Wick co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Letich onboard.
They would leave the project eventually, with David S. F. Wilson taking his place in the director’s chair. Rumours of Jared Leto leading the project came and went. Now we have the end result, coming in the midst of uncertain times and the new advent of home cinema releases for a raised fee. In light of our surroundings, it turns out that this was the kind of film ripe for old school thrills (flawed logic included for good measure).
U.S Marine Ray Garrison (Diesel), returns home following the success of foiling a hostage situation in Mombasa. Whilst everything seems idyllic with his wife Gina (Tallulah Riley), dread no doubt rears its head. Killed at the hands of Martin Axe, played with scene-stealing goofiness by Toby Kebbell, Garrison’s body is recovered by Rising Spirit Tech. Specialising in cybernetic augmentation for U.S military personnel, Garrison’s past is seemingly non-existent.
Foraying into another blockbuster level project ala Fast is Vin’s bread and butter. Whilst the Fast franchise portrays Dominic Torretto as increasingly god-like mechanic defying the laws of everything, it worked well for me here to see this 80s machismo attitude fulfilled in a context that permits it without the need for head-scratching. Chewing up the frame with a Universal Soldier approach, Bloodshot plays out its techno terror with the appropriate cheese of those earlier 80s / 90s actioners. Moments like heavies hitting Vin in the bicep, only to falter, are completely acceptable as the increasing amount of muscle and slow-motion dominate the action.
The action itself, which might be obvious to some, isn’t as hectic as you’d expect. Contortions and crunches of henchman in slow motion playback with brute force, soaked in saturated grading. The highlight no doubt comes in the form of convoy hijack at the end of the first act. I mean, he kicks someone through a 4×4.
The supporting cast of Guy Pearce, Eiza Gonzalez, Lamorne Morris, Sam Heughan and Alex Hernandez populate the world of RST’s growing reign. Borrowing the kitted Exo aesthetic of recent Black Ops games, Hernandez and Heughan are unfortunately given little to do other than act as (unsuccessful) babysitters to Diesel’s Garrison. As a duo to disrupt Garrison’s later motivations, more focus on these baddies could have proved ruthless as opposed to Pearce’s Dr. Harting (channelling Iron Man 3 no less).
Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the source material to a great extent, so as far as its accuracy I can’t speak to that. With that in mind, a second act twist that switches the focus from ripping and tearing to the consequences of augmented aggressors proves to at least give this more depth than your average popcorn fest. Programmed expendables as billion-dollar tech fodder is an interesting concept, which is why the disjointed third act lets it down. In the space of two scenes, Diesel goes from East Sussex to France with no location card or explanation as to the change of scenery.
Is France an idealised version of East Sussex in Wilson’s mind? Maybe. It’s a shame as Bloodshot strangely feels like its momentum is dwindling, despite the visual scale noticeably becoming more ramped up. The bait of a sequel has never been more rife in the final ten minutes since the final frames of The Mighty Ducks.
Fans of no-nonsense actioners in the vein of mid 80s Arnie will probably get a kick of Bloodshot, just like I did. If Diesel can resurrect the xXx franchise with Return of Xander Cage, then I think anything is possible for any Diesel related project. For a directorial debut, Wilson wears those aforementioned influences on his sleeve and gives us a brute force romp begging to be watched with friends.
Directed by: Dave Wilson
Written by: Jeff Wadlow, Eric Heisserer
Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Guy Pearce