Let’s not make too much of this, but the comic book adaptation “Bloodshot” is basically a new and improved “Universal Soldier” or “Six Million Dollar Man” variation, with a better cast, fresh effects and “upgrades.”
But throw in the fact that Sony gave away the whole damn movie in the trailers, and one is hard-pressed to come up with a reason to brave the “Outbreak” we’re living through to go see it.
Well, people who can’t wait another year for the now-postponed next “Fast/Furious” movie to get their Vin Diesel fix have their reasons. You know who you are.
Visual effects specialist turned director Dave Wilson and Diesel & Co. deliver a competently heartless action picture, a superhero movie without the tights, “Transformers” with Battle Bot Vin in the lead role.
Diesel plays a top flight commando who always gets his man, always says the hostage and always, as he tells his wife (Talulah Riley), “comes home.”
But there’s this villain (Toby Kebbell) who gets the drop on our man Ray when he and the Mrs. are on holiday on the Amalfi Coast (Italy). The bad guy tortures our hero in a meat locker, after vamping/dancing in to the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” Then he kills the wife. Ray, too.
Only Ray wakes up under the care of a one-armed scientist (Guy Pearce) with a wicked twinkle in his eye. Ray’s been claimed from the Army morgue. “It was either us…or Arlington!”
Ray’s been brought back, new and augmented — super strong, nanotech in his bloodstream fixing every injury in a flash. And there’s just enough memory for Ray to want his revenge, which his RST (Rising Spirit Technology) minder cannot prevent.
But something about the casting of Pearce summons up memories of everything the trailers to “Bloodshot” give away. This Dr. Harting (Pearce) isn’t who he seems. Ray isn’t the righteous avenger he might be, something comrades who have gone through this program (Eiza González , Sam Heughan, Alex Hernandez) hint at. We know this long before Harting’s pitiless nature comes out in a single line.
“He’s a dead soldier. America makes new ones every day.”
Like all comic book movies, there’s a whiff of “Hey, we could get a FRANCHISE out of this” here. But just a whiff. The script spends a lot of time explaining the tech, showing off some dazzling effects. It’s not just the epic fights, shootouts and blood corpuscle–sized robots that require Hollywood’s finest’s attention. We have “Matrix/Inception” styled modeling and “simulations” to illustrate.
One of those, breaking down one of the most scenic places on Earth into its component shapes, colors and textures like a computerized Leonardo DaVinci, is singularly impressive and should be taught in special effects schools.
Diesel doesn’t sleepwalk through movies like this, but neither the script nor the performance give us a sense of a compelling interior life, pathos or humanity. That’s kind of built-into the character, and it hamstrings the movie.
Pearce is similarly colorless. The movie is self-aware enough to know that the dancing, torturing Kebbell scene is over-the-top and “Hollywood.” But hell, the movie NEEDS a little of that — a lot more of it, to be honest. That’s why Brit actor Lamorne Morris, as a wiseass techie, steals the movie when he shows up in the third act.
Eiza González of “Hobbs & Shaw” and “Baby Driver” is a stunning beauty who handles what action choreography they entrust to her. She knows how to suck in her cheeks as she’s about to set off grenades in the computer room like an action bombshell badass. Very Olivia Wilde.
But “Bloodshot” is a movie filled with “Yeah, and?” moments, scenes and plot points. Covering ground this familiar in an origin story puts extra pressure on character, relationships and empathetic acting. All are somewhat less than they need to be to make this one worth the price of admission.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some suggestive material and language
Cast: Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce,Eiza González, Talulah Riley and Toby Kebbell.
Credits: Directed by Dave Wilson, script by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer, based on the comic book. A Sony release.
Running time: 1:49