Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe, Dinesh Shamdasani and Vin Diesel Director: David S. F. Wilson Screenplay: Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Guy Pearce, Sam Heughan. Toby Kebbell, Lamorne Morris, Siddharth Dhananjay, Talulah Riley, Alex Hernandez, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson and Tamer Burjaq Distributor: Sony Entertainment/Columbia Pictures
“The Six Million Dollar Man” gets a multi-billion dollars upgrade and a nasty twist in this bombastic action movie adapted from Valiant’s comic-book series, which started in 1992. “Bloodshot” is big, loud, and extraordinarily silly.
The premise, introduced in the first act, is that after saving a hostage from a terrorist, gung-ho special ops hero Ray Garrison (Van Diesel) goes home to his beautiful wife Gina (Talulah Riley). During a holiday in Italy they’re attacked and captured by the goons of Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), who demands Ray reveal the source of the information that led him to his target. When he claims not to know, Axe tauntingly kills Gina, and then Ray too.
But that’s not the end of the movie, of course, however much one might wish it were. Ray is resurrected through cutting-edge nanite technology pioneered by Dr. Emil Harding (Guy Pearce) as a means of creating super-soldiers. (One might ask whether anyone deserves resurrection less than Vin Diesel, but let that pass.) Ray’s blood has literally been replaced by millions of nano-bots that give him super-powers and the ability to regenerate after suffering damage. His memory is supposed to have been wiped clean, but nonetheless he has flashbacks to Gina’s death, and now with super-strength and virtual invulnerability, he goes after Axe and, in the movie’s first big chaotic set-pieces, offs him—and his convoy of defenders—in a confrontation in a Budapest traffic tunnel.
His revenge task would seem to be completed, but appearances are deceiving. Harding is actually manipulating Ray—as well as his earlier experiments KT (Elia González), Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan) and Tibbs (Alex Hernandez)—for his own purposes. His motives and the means that he and he chief technician Eric (Siddharth Dhananjay) employ to achieve them, won’t be revealed here; suffice it to say that the result sometimes recalls a much better Pearce film, “”Memento.”
There’s one other character who plays a major role in Ray’s story: another tech genius named Wilfred Wiggins (Lamorne Morris), who, along with Eric, provides what comic relief is to be found in this otherwise unremittingly dour opus.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to reveal all the contortions of the plot of “Bloodshot”—it might even be impossible, given the brusqueness with which first-time director David S. F. Wilson deals with them in his eagerness to get to another big action set-piece. What’s surprising is that Wilson, a visual effects specialist, hasn’t managed to employ them especially dexterously here. When the film does get around to its explosions of action, they’re so sloppily choreographed, shot (by Jacques Jouffret) and edited (by Jim May) as to be nearly incomprehensible.
That Budapest traffic-tunnel sequence, for instance, is pretty much a complete mess, the dankness of the locale made all the more ridiculously impenetrable by the fact that it all occurs in an avalanche of flour (a truck carrying a load of it is an element of the crash).
And when the CGI is called on to provide fizz, it usually fizzles instead. That’s the case with the many scenes in which Ray’s body parts regenerate: it’s not a terribly good effect to begin with, but it’s repeated so many times that it becomes boring. The nadir comes toward the close, when Ray engages in a protracted battle with Dalton and Tibbs on the sleek side of Harding’s modernistic headquarters skyscraper. Dalton suddenly exhibits the ability to unleash all sorts of metal appendages, which we’ve not seen before. But worse, the mixture of live-action footage and computer-generated images looks terrible, and it goes on so long that the inadequacies are made ever more evident. The proliferation of sloppy, woozy montages accompanied by Steve Jablonsky’s booming score is also annoying.
Tom Brown’s production design, meanwhile, is a mixed affair. Some of the interiors of Harding’s headquarters are impressive; others look dingy and cramped. The same can be said of the digs of some of his competitors, including the one (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) for whom Wiggins works. Perhaps the budget wasn’t as big as one might assume.
As for the acting, things are much as you would expect. Diesel is his usual wooden self; Pearce tries to inject some personality into Harding, but it’s a losing cause—the doctor emerges as just a standard-issue villain. Morris and Dhananjay provide more irritation than comic relief, while González, Heughan and Hernandez are stuck in stock roles.
It’s obvious from the coda that the makers hope that this might be the start of a lucrative franchise, perhaps even a Valiant Universe to rival Marvel’s. In today’s Hollywood, they could be right—more’s the pity.