“How can I have nightmares if I have no memories?” – Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel), Bloodshot
I guess we were so busy with the whole Coronavirus outbreak that somebody quietly invented time travel. How else to explain the presence of the 2004 action movie Bloodshot suddenly appearing in 2020? The Doc Brown of our time must have taken it from a previous era and plopped it into movie theaters as a stealthy way of announcing that time travel exists. How cute! That’s a rational explanation for Bloodshot playing in over 2,800 locations this coming weekend rather than somebody at Sony/Columbia actually believing that this David S.F. Wilson directorial effort will actually kickstart a new cinematic universe. That would be just madness! Anywho, who wants to join me in traveling back to the 1960s so that I can party with Agnes Varda & Vera Chytilova?
In all seriousness, Bloodshot is a new Vin Diesel action vehicle based on a Valiant Comics character that begins with Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) waking up on an operating table with no memory of who he is. Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) proceeds to explain to Garrison that he got killed in action and he’s been revived with Nano-nite technology that imbues his body with super-strength and regeneration powers. Now an unstoppable killing machine, Garrison, after having a nightmare that illuminates parts of his past, goes after the man he believes is responsible for the death of his wife. However, it turns out Harting is manipulating Garrison by constantly wiping away his memories and using him as a weapon to take out non-lethal targets.
Bloodshot’s script, penned by Jeff Wadlow & Eric Heisserer, has a myriad of pressing issues but perhaps the biggest is how the audience is constantly put one step ahead of our protagonist. We’re not invested in his point-of-view of unraveling the mystery of what’s happened to him, we’re simply waiting for him to pick up on obvious telltale signs of villainy. This creates a divide between the viewer and Ray Garrison that’s impossible to close. and that chams only widens when considering what a blank slate of a person Garrison is. If you held a gun to my head, I couldn’t describe a single defining personality trait of this empty figure whose lack of depth makes Xander Cage look like one of the multi-layered characters from Russian Doll.
Worse than delivering a boring protagonist, Bloodshot’s script also fails to deliver excitement, the one element anyone going to see a Vin Diesel movie named Bloodshot would want. The story begins not with memorable action sequences but rather an avalanche of expository dialogue delivered by Guy Pearce and Eiza Gonzales (the latter playing the character KT) in the most tedious way possible. There’s no Mr. DNA character to deliver exposition in a clever way here, just human beings flatly explaining how things work in sterile sets. If one thinks that’ll be the laziest part of the movie, just wait until Bloodshot’s action sequences kick in.
If the outstanding fight sequences in the likes of John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road have got you hankering for action scenes that are on the order of generic and clumsily filmed, Bloodshot is your movie. There’s nary a set piece to be found here that truly feels unique while the majority of the hand-to-hand fighting is filtered through incoherent editing and shoddy lighting that makes it hard to tell what’s going on. Are these visual elements in place to soften R-rated action for a PG-13 rating or merely the result of inherently incompetent filmmaking? I can’t say for certain but what I do know is that Bloodshot’s action scenes, the one part of the movie it had to deliver the goods on, is guaranteed to inspire yawns when it should inspire cheers.
For the price of one movie ticket, Bloodshot manages to deliver all of this underwhelming material plus so much more subpar content. David S.F. Wilson’s direction, for instance, is humorously derivative of other filmmakers, especially in his penchant for slowing down the action before speeding it up like he’s Zack Snyder or Guy Ritchie. Meanwhile, the dialogue is across the board atrocious. There’s a number of serious lines that make one wanna chuckle at their ineptness while attempts at comedic lines just make you wanna cringe in embarrassment at how badly they missed the mark. Particularly terrible are two separate occasions where characters deliver “hilarious” lines (one of which is the closing line of the entire movie!) that are meant to lampshade the generic nature of Bloodshot. Nothing can excuse a movie this unimaginatively and tediously made, not even the existence of time travel.