2020, PG-13, 109 min. Directed by Dave Wilson. Starring Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza González, Lamorne Morris, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell.
REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., March 13, 2020
When all is said and done, who will have the better career: Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson? After the much-publicized feud between the two Fast and the Furious stars, Diesel has seemingly fallen behind due to vanity projects like xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Bloodshot, an adaptation of the popular Valiant Comics series of the same name. But whereas Johnson’s films seem pressure-tested for the widest possible audience, Diesel has a knack for making movies that generate a cult following. Bloodshot may not earn the box office numbers of Disney’s upcoming Jungle Cruise, but I’d wager far more people will make passionate arguments in favor of Diesel’s film in the years to come.
When Ray Garrison (Diesel) watches his wife die at the hands of a madman, he vows revenge, even if it must come from beyond the grave. Thankfully, this is where Dr. Emil Harting (Pearce) steps in. Harting and his team resurrect Garrison and replace his blood with the hardest-working nanites in town. When Garrison realizes his full potential, he breaks free from his laboratory – and from the watchful eye of KT (Gonzalez), another augmented soldier in Harting’s employ – and seeks out revenge. That is, until Garrison realizes that his memories may be the last thing he should trust.
If there are such people as diehard Bloodshot fans, then they will no doubt be disappointed by the liberties taken here. No Vin Diesel movie can be anything other than a Vin Diesel movie. Even as a 52-year-old action star, Diesel’s brand of gruff heroism is still powerful enough to bend entire projects to his will. Bloodshot also hits theaters with an underwhelming PG-13 rating, limiting the film’s ability to either indulge in or comment on the ultra-violence of comic book adaptations. The reference point for Bloodshot should be something like The Last Witch Hunter, not a comic book series legendary for its destruction of the human body.
Bloodshot’s true standout is Guy Pearce, Hollywood's consummate middle-man. It’s the archetype that launched his career in L.A. Confidential, and Pearce has spent the past two decades finding sneaky new ways to iterate on this character. This makes him perfect for a movie like Bloodshot. Pearce never plays down to his material; at the same time, he will always find B-movie charisma in even his most cheesy villains. Watching him belittle the recycled story elements of his programmer’s simulation is one of the movie’s highlights. Then again, Bloodshot comes with a surprising number of highlights. The film constantly pokes at Diesel’s tough-guy persona, allowing him to brawl his way through several standout fight sequences without succumbing to the character issues of his worst vanity projects. Garrison’s entire mode of fighting – to slowly charge as soldiers blow holes in his torso – seems like a direct rebuke to the video game violence of the Fast and the Furious movies, and the supporting characters judge him mercilessly for his lack of finesse. Bloodshot is, against all odds, the perfect Vin Diesel meta-movie.
There are plenty of holes to be poked in Bloodshot, if that’s your flavor of cinematic entertainment. Once the ball starts rolling, the movie skips right along, never pausing to let us wonder too much about the quasi-science holding everything together (or what private security company is foolish enough to keep contracting with an array of doomed computer engineers). But so much of the movie is the right kind of entertaining, with the right kind of actors playing the right kind of second-tier blockbuster roles, that Bloodshot cannot help but be a cult classic in the making. This is Hollywood escapism at its finest at a time when we need it the most.