Cinema Dispatch: Bloodshot

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Bloodshot and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by David SF Wilson

Is it just me, or did anyone else think this movie was about a vampire?  I mean it’s not like BLOODSHOT is some sort of household name to rival that of Iron Man and Thor, and with a name like that I’d have pegged them as a Blade knock off more than anything else!  Well whatever this movie is about (a ROBOT vampire maybe?), it’s yet another vehicle for Vin Diesel who’s really had a bad luck streak in recent years as he’s been trying so hard to escape the Fast franchise to do his own thing but to no avail, and now he has to pretend that John Cena is his brother or whatever the heck is going on in that move that we won’t be seeing for another year.  Just when he thought he was out, THEY PULL HIM RIGHT BACK IN!!  Is this the one that will be the new franchise starter that he needs to escape the shadow of the Fast and Furious franchise?  I mean… probably not, but let’s find out!!

Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is your typical action movie hero.  He works for a SUPER SECRET SEAL TEAM SIX type outfit for the US military, and he’s covered in all sorts of scars that his beautiful wife (Talulah Riley) lovingly caresses whenever he returns from another world saving mission.  Sounds about right for a typical action flick, but where’s the motivation for vengeance?  WHERE’S THE INCITING INCIDENT THAT CALLS OUR HERO TO VIOLENCE!?  Oh wait, there it is!  Some dude (Toby Kebbell) kidnaps him and his wife looking for information, but when Ray doesn’t have the answers he’s looking for he kills the wife and puts a bullet in Ray’s head; an act that would kill a lesser man, but Vin Diesel isn’t about to be put down by a small amount of lead to the cranium!  Instead, he manages to survive the shooting and his body Is recovered… somehow by SUPER SCIENTISTS working for Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) where it’s brought to his SUPER SCIENCE company and is fixed up good as new by basically turning him into Million Ants Man; only instead of ants it’s NANOBOTS!!  With this new power he can recover from ANY damage, can punch things REALLY hard, is able to connect to basically any computer… BUT WILL THAT HEAL THE HOLE THAT IS LEFT IN HIS HEART!?  Of course not, so almost immediately he starts to search for the man who killed his wife and plots his revenge despite the consternation of Dr. Harting and his rag tag group of cyborg buddies including Katie (Eiza González) who has a robo-lung and seems to be hiding more than just her giant chest mounted ventilation system.  Will Ray find the man responsible and bring him to justice in a very violent fashion?  Why did he kidnap Ray and his wife in the first place considering he didn’t have any information to give him, and is there more to this horrific act of violence than Ray initially suspects?  Why the heck is even called Bloodshot!?  Is it REALLY just because he has red eyes sometimes?

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“Hey buddy, do you need help or something?”     “All I need is to bath in the blood of my enemies and hear their screams as they take their last painful breath…”     “Okay… well how about some eye drops?”     “I mean… I won’t say no if you have some.”

As boring and dull as all that sounds, you may be shocked to find out that this film is MUCH more than that initial summary indicates and I don’t think I’ve been this thoroughly punked out by a movie in quite some time which is certainly an accomplishment for an otherwise crappy little Sony action film based on a superhero that NO ONE has heard of or cares about.  This is one of those rare cases where a movie gets SO much better in the second half that it retroactively makes a really terrible first half a bit better in hindsight.  Probably not enough to make it a GOOD move considering how many clichés they indulge in throughout hand just how long it takes the film to get to where it’s REALLY going, but I do have to give this movie props for still managing to completely surprise me.  I’m torn as to whether I would have preferred the film go to all out for the entire running time with stuff they end up doing in the second half, or if having the twist where it is is what made the rest of the movie as engaging as it was!  Seriously, you might as well bring a pillow for the first forty or so minutes of this dull as dishwater movie that’s only mildly spiced up by some silly action scenes, but I guess a movie that’s half boring and half amusing is… halfway decent?

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“How are we looking, boys?”     “Well… we’re sitting at a thirty on Rotten Tomatoes.”     “Okay, but that’s like ALMOST a fresh rating, right?”     “I mean… sort of?  But not really.”

The first half of this movie is ASTOUNDINGLY paint by numbers to the point that it almost becomes a parody if I had believed for even an instant that anyone involved had the skill to pull it off.  Vin Diesel is a block of generic stoic wood that lacks any of the spark or charisma that made Dominic Toretto such an enduring character, and he just spends this whole movie grumbling his lines and occasionally smiling sardonically.  Then again, it’s not like he has a whole lot to work with as the script is just feeding him macho clichés and bad one liners, so what in the heck is he SUPPOSED to do; it’s not like he can fall back on WE’RE FAMILY or put on some Riddick shades to spice things up!  It’s just so bad and so tedious to sit through outside of the overblown fight scenes… that it actually works when the other shoe eventually drops.  Well… works is probably too strong a word because you’re STILL sitting through at best a moderately priced straight to VOD film (one that’s ACTUALLY straight to VOD and isn’t going there because all the theaters are shutting down), but it’s a motivated choice for it to be that way all the same.

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“Did you see my sequel to xXx?”     “Oh, the one starring Ice Cube?”     “No, MY sequel to xXx!!”

Unfortunately I can’t really get into ANYTHING they do in the second half of the movie because it would require spoiling the big twist (which the trailers KIND of spoil so avoid those if you can) and I really don’t want to do that if I can help it.  Heck, I’ve probably revealed too much already by even SAYING that there’s a twist at all because almost nothing about this movie indicates that one is coming, and all the retroactive clues are just as easily read as pieces of a really terrible and cheesy movie.  This is what makes it actually so clever and a LITTLE bit infuriating that they did such a good job of making a boring movie for us all to sit through just to pull the rug out from under us halfway through.  Once it gets to the GOOD part though, it’s a solidly written sci-fi parable.  Nothing groundbreaking as it pinches more than a few ideas from Philip K Dick, but it is SO much cleverer than a movie like this has any right to be.  It’s still far from a masterpiece at that point as it’s still riddled with clichéd characters, really bad comedy, and a plot so convoluted that OF COURSE it came from a nineties comic book, but considering what we were getting up to that point I’d rather take an overly ambitious sci-fi flick than another generic action vehicle.

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“CRAWLING IN MY SKIN!!  THESE WOUNDS, THEY’LL SWIFTLY HEAL!!”     “I know right?  Nanobots are AWESOME!”

Even if I have to stay really vague about the good parts of the movie’s narrative, I can still at least talk about a few of the other aspects of this movie that are done well; namely the action scenes and its overall aesthetic.  If you want to compare this movie to anything, it’s probably closest to Alita: Battle Angel in terms of the kind of sci-fi concepts they play with, albeit it scaled REALLY far back.  Now sure Vin Diesel doesn’t have the most visually impressive powers as he’s basically Superman and he glows red sometimes, but we see people who have really interestingly realized prosthetics like the dude with robot legs, a pair of Doc Ock style robot arms we see later on, and this ohe guy who has some really cool robot eyes that can work like a GPS system.  The first half sadly doesn’t utilize them all that much but the latter half has some fight scenes and chases with them that find creative uses for not just their advanced abilities but also their limitations as well which creates a unique flow for the action amidst the over the top set pieces.  Acting across the board is nothing to write home about, but Guy Pearce is at least having fun with his over the top performance here, and Vin Diesel as the slab of meat at least fits the role he’s here for and his stock action hero taciturn personality ends up being a key component to the film’s eventual twist; so like a lot of the other less than inspired moments in the movie it ends up being in service of something greater.  I don’t think that Vin Diesel himself is some sort of meathead like many of the characters he’s asked to portray, and it definitely feels like he’s intentionally leaning into it here rather than just sleepwalking through another performance.

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“THE GRINCH CAN EAT HIS ENGORGED HEART OUT!!”

This isn’t a particularly GREAT movie, but it definitely turns into an interesting one which is more than I can say for a lot of other movies that come out; especially action movies like this one that just come and go with barely a reason to exist.  Heck, when Hitman: Agent 47 and Venom are in the UPPER TIER of low rent action movies that studios like Sony and Fox put out, it’s hard to argue that this doesn’t have SOME merit within its genre.  For what its’ worth, this one manages to clear that low action movie bar with some fun sci-fi nonsense, a clever twist, and an over the top action style that may not win any awards but at least provides enough coherently shot thrills to make the bad parts go down a bit smoother.  If this one DOES hit VOD like a lot of other recent release will, then I’d recommend checking it out if you’re bored of watching reruns or have already burned through your Vudu library.  It’s certainly better to watch at home where you can tune out the boring first half, and the second half has just enough fun to it that makes it worth checking out at least once.  I mean what the heck else are you going to do?  Watch Vin Diesel’s OTHER movies?  I’m stuck at home watching crappy movies like this over and over again, and you STILL couldn’t pay me to re-watch The Last Witch Hunter!

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