Given their cultural dominance, playground games for boys naturally often center on make-believe superhero play. But in this fantasy pretend, there’s always that one windbag kid—let’s call that f*cker Chad—that imbues his invented character with so many utterly invincible powers he essentially ruins any capacity for drama or stakes rendering the entire imaginary peril pointless and dull. Thanks, Chad. Welcome to Sony’s “Bloodshot”—the superhero film equivalent of the worst kid at the playground.
The latest attempt to anchor a relatively unknown superhero property around an A-list actor, “Bloodshot,” stars Vin Diesel as a character, sometimes known as “Ray,” other times “Garrison,” and only once “Bloodshot.” He’s a deceased former soldier brought back to life as a seemingly unconquerable killing machine by RST, a mysterious tech company led by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce). The character is an unstoppable force with super-strength, enhanced speed, and the ability to heal from any wound courtesy of “nanites”—billions of little helper robots replacing his blood. Now, he’s a one-man army on a mission to kill the man who murdered his wife before his eyes.
The one thing “Bloodshot” has going for it is the element of surprise, and it discards it fast. Act one lulls the audience into a false sense of security, creating the idea that you’re watching the latest Michael Bay action rip-off with superhero elements you’ve seen dozens of times. Act two, however, features a major twist. The film blows itself up, demonstrating that there’s more to the story than meets the eye. However, once that shock and excitement of the unexpected curveball wears off, “Bloodshot” reveals its true nature—nearly two hours of Diesel doing his damndest to look incredibly badass playing a character that perfectly suits an actor who is notoriously insecure about appearing vulnerable or weak on screen, which makes for dull, flat characters, not unlike Bloodshot.
Despite all the bluster of power, what elevates superhero films and their archetypes of good vs. evil is vulnerability. If there’s no challenge to seemingly insurmountable odds, then they’re not actually insurmountable, and any victory will never actually feel triumphant. The more peril and risk, the more the audience leans on the edge of their seat. In that regard, “Bloodshot” fails miserably.
At no point in the film’s entire runtime are you ever worried about the hero. Even when he’s a “regular” human, he’s still shown obliterating bad guys with minimal effort. He’s cool, calm, collected, and even sports a beautiful blonde trophy wife on his arm and the respect of his peers. As you can imagine, this isn’t a Peter Parker situation story of overcoming your fears, by any stretch.
Worse, even his primary “mission” gets negated, and thus the emotional weight and drive of the film—avenging his wife’s death—is stopped cold. It’s boring, predictable, and by the end, when a character grants Bloodshot a cure for his one deficiency, audiences are presented with a hero that is impossible to root for because nothing is exciting or thought-provoking about a character with no perceptible flaws or weaknesses. It’s 8-year-old Chad on the playground all over again. F*cking Chad.
A long-time creator at Blur Studios (Tim Miller’s SFX company) making his feature directorial debut here, “Bloodshot” director David S. F. Wilson’s inexperience shines through like the ugly red light emanating from hero’s chest. Fans of action-heavy films will immediately recognize the shaky close-ups, quick cuts, and use of darkness as a filmmaker trying to hide the seams of set pieces that don’t cut together well and none of it convinces.
Supporting characters? None to speak of other than exposition devices, and the actors that dare to compete with Diesel and earn their name on the poster sport terrible dialogue, questionable accents, and deliver action movie clichés for days.
Even on that most basic level of competence, “Bloodshot” doesn’t succeed. Clearly set up as a new Valiant Comics superhero universe franchise, Diesel’s film just doesn’t leave you excited for more adventures. And while there is at least one clever idea that does offer a potential deadlier alternative to the MCU, “Bloodshot” never learns to embrace the vulnerability and stakes that are necessary for quality superhero storytelling (as well as curing its weak filmmaking issues). So, by now, it’s probably far too late. Similar to how you’d deal with the power-accessories-heavy Chad on the playground and his tedious ideas of heroics, it’s better to ignore it and hope it goes away. [D]