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‘Bloodshot’ a complete misfire

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One of the things that we’ve learned as various studios try to construct their own cinematic universes in the wake of the massive success of the MCU? It’s hard to do – much harder than Marvel makes it look.

That doesn’t mean folks are going to stop trying.

The Vin Diesel vehicle “Bloodshot” is intended to serve as the jumping-off point for yet another cinematic universe – this one built on the IP of Valiant Comics. It’s a rich source of material, albeit one far less familiar to the layperson than the works of either Marvel or DC; Sony is counting on a better outcome than what they got with their efforts to make Spider-Man a going concern.

Alas, it’s not looking good.

Leaving aside the very real logistical issues that have sprung from the global situation with the coronavirus, the truth is that this movie just isn’t very good. There’s a lack of energy to the proceedings that undercuts any effort to excite the viewer about the movie they are watching, let alone future films that might come along. With iffy effects work, sloppy screenwriting, pedestrian direction and a particularly leaden performance from Diesel, “Bloodshot” simply misses the mark.

Diesel plays Ray Garrison, an elite soldier who engages in high-priority operations on behalf of the U.S. government. His latest is a rescue mission in Kenya, after which he goes on holiday with his wife Gina (Talulah Riley, TV’s “Westworld”). However, the two are abducted by a group of mercenaries led by an arms dealer named Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell, TV’s “Servant”) – an abduction that leads to Ray and Gina’s deaths.

But death isn’t the end.

Ray awakens in a lab, disoriented and amnesiac. It turns out that he’s been resurrected through the work of a company named Rising Spirit Tech, whose focus is developing cybernetic enhancements for injured U.S. military personnel. RST’s head honcho is Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce, TV’s “A Christmas Carol”), a genius with a passion for helping soldiers.

Ray has been resurrected via the introduction of nanotechnology, billions of microscopic bio-robots that have essentially replaced his bloodstream. These nanobots give him greatly enhanced strength and speed, as well as heightened senses and rapid regeneration – he is nigh-invincible, so long as he maintains the necessary energy connections to RST.

Other enhanced soldiers include: KT (Eiza Gonzalez, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”), a former Navy diver given enhanced breathing tech; Marcus (Alex Hernandez, TV’s “The Son”), a blinded man given cameras to restore and enhance his sight; and Jimmy (Sam Heughan, TV’s “Outlander”), a man with high-tech prosthetic legs.

Ray’s memory is ostensibly gone, but he starts having vivid flashbacks; these memories lead him to go rogue, to seek vengeance against Martin Axe and the others that killed his wife. Harting and the rest struggle to rein him in, due in large part to his incredible abilities.

There’s just one problem. When you’ve lost all of your memories, how can you be sure that the ones you retrieve are actually your own? And if they aren’t, who stands to gain the most from the control that those “memories” bestow? There’s a lot more going on at RST than meets the eye, leaving Ray to try and figure out who he can trust … and who he truly is.

There’s a lot going on in “Bloodshot,” but nothing much really happens. It’s a movie packed with frantic, flailing action, but it’s mostly sound and fury, signifying nothing. The screenplay – co-written by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer – is boilerplate, a number of checked boxes that never really coalesces into an actual story. What plot there is manages to be both thin and convoluted, and first-time director Dave Wilson is a veteran video game visual effects guy who is, to be blunt, out of his depth in the big chair. That video game sensibility should translate to the superhero oeuvre, but at least in this case, it really doesn’t.

Again, “Bloodshot” is ostensibly a superhero movie – and a franchise starter to boot – but it lacks much of the energy and imagination necessary to make a hero take flight. One suspects that the characters could work in more capable hands, but those hands are definitely not on this particular deck.

It’s well-established that Vin Diesel’s range isn’t all that broad, but he’s proven very successful when he stays in his lane. On paper, it would seem that this role would be squarely in his wheelhouse, but it never clicks. His tough guy taciturnity reads instead as wooden; he spends the majority of his time grunting and/or flexing. There’s just not enough charisma there.

The rest of the cast? Meh. No one is actively terrible, but neither is anyone worthy of particular note. Everyone seems to be going through the motions, hitting their marks and saying their lines and wondering what craft services is putting out for lunch today. Heck, there are only a couple that seem aware of just what kind of movie they’re making – Pearce and Kebbell, actually, both of whom have been part of the franchise machine previously.

“Bloodshot” is an utter misfire of a movie, an attempt at franchise-building that fails to even build a workable foundation. Frankly, it’s difficult to articulate just how completely everyone involved missed the target. “Bloodshot” should have bled out.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 08:20

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