Synopsis – Ray Garrison, a slain soldier, is re-animated with superpowers.
My Take – With Marvel and DC properties continuing to dominate the mainstream market, other publishing companies, despite mostly possessing better material, constantly struggle to receive the attention they deserve.
Hence, when it was announced that Sony has picked up rights to bring their well-liked antihero, who debuted back in 1992, to the bring screen, I was genuinely excited as it also marked the first time a Valiant Comics character was getting a film adaption. Making things more exciting was the film was being set up to launch a Valiant Cinematic Universe, with Harbinger being set as the next entry, leading up to a third film called Harbinger Wars.
However, the first troubling news came with the casting replacement of Jared Leto (who has since moved on to the soon to be released Morbius) with Vin Diesel. While I do understand that he has a certain likability factor, and does bare a resemblance to the comic counterpart, but outside his appearance as Dominic Toretto in the billion dollar Fast and Furious franchise, Diesel has appeared mostly in atrocious films like Babylon A.D., Riddick, The Last Witch Hunter, and xXx: Return of Xander Cage, hereby forcing one to question his ability to carry a franchise starter, without playing into his weaknesses.
The second unfortunate news came about how the Harbinger film adaptation had moved from Sony to Paramount, leading to conjecture about their lack of fate in the quality of the final film.
As one could have guessed, the end result is an objectively bad film, which can’t be even defined as a superhero flick, but instead yet another generic sci-fi action film with an ultimately convoluted and overly-CGI’d story. While it does contain some entertaining action sequences, the predictable plot with nothing shocking, smart or original, makes the overall film seem like a by-the-numbers as possible it can be, with even the twists feeling like foregone conclusions.
To make matters worse, between all the mess, Vin Diesel once again gets to give a speech which sounds quite similar to his favorite ‘It’s all about family’ monotone.
The story follows Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel), an elite Marine who following a successful mission comes home to his wife Gina (Talulah Riley), to cool down until his country comes call for his next outing. Unfortunately for him, he soon finds himself and his wife kidnapped and killed by the hands of a madman who calls himself Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell). But as fate may have it, Ray is brought back to life by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), who used his cutting-edge regenerative nanotechnology devised by his Rising Spirits Technologies (RST), all in order to give him a second chance.
While his memory is hazy at first, they soon begin to pour in, fueling him with only one goal – to use his newly powerful resurrected form to exact revenge on the man who wronged him. However, Ray realizes that he is not being told the whole story, and is convinced that Dr. Harting and his associates KT (Eiza González), Jimmy (Sam Heughan) and Tibbs (Alex Hernandez), who all sport cybernetic enhancements, are part of a larger devious plan, where he is merely a soldier acting out orders without a conscience.
Using his newfound abilities, Ray must uncover the scheme that he is entangled in and wrestle control from those who seek to use him for their own ends.
The film, like the comic book that it’s based on, dabbles in futuristic sci-fi gimmickry and bare-knuckle military firepower, and it kind of works at first that is until first-time director David S.F. Wilson, a man previously known only for his videogame commercials, loses control of the narrative. The screenplay by Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Lights Out) and Jeff Wadlow (Fantasy Island, Kick-Ass 2) is just too generic and mired in clichés to be its own thing. The film’s lone clever twist, which the trailer spoils, feels like it happens way too soon. As a result, the rest of the film has an odd pace; we meet new main characters quite late, and the ultimate resolution feels very rote and absurdly predictable.
The film also makes a stab at being self-aware, as one character mentions film clichés, but it doesn’t wear that self-awareness well. This is the kind of film that has not one but two comic relief tech guys. No matter how interesting the film tries to get it eventually caves to a barrage of ludicrous plot turns that muddy almost every character motivation, as well as a series of CGI fights.
While there are a few outstanding action sequences, such as the first time Ray’s full powers are revealed in combat. The scene is set in a barricaded tunnel where a truck transporting flour has crashed, making it atmospheric in an inventive way. However, the remaining ones boast of on-screen graphics that video games from 15 years ago would scoff at.
The makers here are clearly hyper aware of how difficult it is to launch a new comic book franchise, but rather than putting their all into this, to raise the cultural capital of Valiant’s superheroes, to make the best first impression possible, they have gone down the route of least amount of risk. Everything here is so safe, so sleek, so cynical that you might feel maddened on behalf of Valiant for the way in which Sony are whizzing their property down the drain. Even all the characters are flat.
The film basically accepts that Vin Diesel is Vin Diesel, and when you cast him as your lead character, because he happens to be biding time between the Fast & Furious films, you are going to get him to play the same character he has been playing in all this time. Here he is once again angry, tough as nails, physically capable, will alternate between wearing black and white vests, and that’s pretty much it.
Eiza González at least tries to do the best with whatever material she has, and brings some level of emotional resonance to the proceedings. Guy Pearce, a very capable actor, is once again relegated to doing the same thing, being bland. Sam Heughan’s performance goes from gum-chewing soldier boy to wild-eyed maniac for seemingly no reason, and he too seems clearly lost about it.
The only one having some kind of fun here is Lamorne Morris, who gets spew some of the film’s funniest lines. In smaller roles, Toby Kebbell is wasted, while Talulah Riley, Alex Hernandez, and Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson are alright. On the whole, ‘Bloodshot’ is a borderline embarrassing superhero flick that is extremely generic and predictable.
Directed – Dave Wilson
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 109 minutes