I’m “biast” (con): not much of a Vin Diesel fan
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
The last movie I saw on a big screen before the world hit a big ol’ Pause button in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic was Bloodshot. If this is the last film I get to see in a cinema for the next 18 months, I’m gonna pissed.
Because Bloodshot is deeply terrible.
If you took a bunch of surface-cool stuff from Robocop (the 1987 original, not the recent terrible remake) and The Matrix, with a bit of Captain America thrown in, and mushed it up without understanding what made those movies and those characters so powerful, this is what you might end up with. Bloodshot doesn’t understand the poignancy of Robocop, and it lacks any hint of the potent satire that keeps that movie still relevant 33 years later. It doesn’t work on multiple levels like The Matrix does; it barely works on its sole unironic level. It absolutely lacks any moral center, which is what drives Captain America. It wants to be a mind-fuck but it’s not remotely clever enough to mess with you in the way it wants to (and also it gives away all of its supposed secrets in the trailer). It thinks it’s poking fun at the tropes of the “muscly meathead out for revenge” action genre, but it is actually embracing them full on in such a way that it makes a mockery of its protagonist.
I hope the Valiant comic series — upon which this appears to be only very loosely based — is better than this. It’s difficult to see how it could possibly be worse.
No amount of futuristic glitter could sugarcoat the clichéd nonsense of the tale of Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel: Avengers: Endgame, The Fate of the Furious), former grunt returned from the dead and turned superstrong supersoldier with self-healing powers thanks to microscopic nanotech robots — nanites — injected into his body by mad-scientist tech entrepreneur Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce: Mary Queen of Scots, Alien: Covenant). Ray can also access the Internet with his brain, a skill he uses to hunt down the baddie (Toby Kebbell: Destroyer, The Hurricane Heist) who killed his wife, Gina (Talulah Riley: Mojave, In a World…). We know they were in love because of the PG-porny gauzy romancing between them that opens the movie, which is excruciating to sit through; it makes Megan Fox humping motorcycles in Michael Bay movies look like the height of sophisticated sensuality.
Behold much strained sci-fi woo-woo from screenwriters Jeff Wadlow — whom I can believe wrote Truth or Dare and Kick-Ass 2 — and Eric Heisserer — whom it’s difficult to accept has Bird Box and Arrival among his credits — to convince you that Ray is somehow simultaneously both an easily programmable meatbot who behaves with tedious predictability that has nothing to do with nanotech, and yet is also someone we’re meant to see as a man with agency and worthy of our cheers even as he does the same stupid shit over and over again. And while they’re doing that, they’re also simultaneously valorizing revenge as a motive as well as condemning it.
Meanwhile, director Dave Wilson is throwing action sequences together like a tossed salad but with less cohesion and much less nutritional value. Wilson is a visual FX guy, and almost entirely on videogames, not film, making his feature debut, because someone thought he could handle a whole-ass movie. He cannot.