REVIEW: ‘Bloodshot’ Can Start a Valiant Cinematic Universe

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Poster for Bloodshot

Action, tight shirts, a gravely voice,an attractive co-star, and an easy to follow plot. At first glance, this may be the set up for variety of Vin Diesel (Fast and Furious franchise) led movies. However, Bloodshot provides slight wrinkles to the typical Diesel action flick that will leave moviegoers wanting more. The most notable is that this Diesel’s attempt at leading a series based on a comic book series as Bloodshot is based on a continuing run from Valiant Comics.

True to its comic origins, Bloodshot follows Raymond Garrison (Vin Diesel) a former solider who has a been enhanced with nanotechnology to become the ultimate super-solider.  However, the scientists who turned him into a killing machine aren’t entirely forthright with their intentions of his augmentations. As Garrison begins to learn truth, viewers are taken on a action-packed fact finding mission. At the helm of this undertaking is director Dave Wilson (Love, Death & Robots – Sonnie’s Edge) who makes his silver screen debut. Wilson is joined by writers Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer who both have experience in delivering on films that provide action and intrigue (Fantasy IslandKick-Ass 2). 

Bloodshot opens with Garrison on a mission to rescue a hostage in Mombasa, Kenya. With almost video game levels of precision, Garrison dispatches all the targets all by himself.  Following his mission, Garrison takes a lovely vacation Italy with his wife, Gina DeCarlo played by Talulah RileyTheir vacation is cut short as Garrison and DeCarlo are kidnapped despite Garrison’s efforts to fight off the attackers. When Garrison awakes, he is greeted by Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell) who wants to know how Garrison knew about the hostages in his previous mission. When Garrison is unable to provide the answers Axe seeks, he kills DeCarlo in front of him which sends him into a rage. It is here that Diesel delivers some of the most passionate and well acted lines I have seen from him as he swears his vengeance just before he too is killed by Axe.

Garrison awakes once again but this time he meets Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and KT (Eiza González) who begin to weave the web of lies that have entangled Garrison who has no memory of who he was. As the leading of the research and development company RST, Harting tells Garrison that he is the first solider to be brought back to life with the nanotechnology. RST is, allegedly, attempting to give wounded warriors a second chance by providing advanced prosthetics. Garrison is introduced to other success stories who have received such prosthesises who are essentially Apex Legends characters.

KT was augmented with a breathing apparatus on her chest that makes her immune to inoculates after a gas accident. Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan) lost his legs and has been given an advanced new pair. Tibbs (Alex Hernandez) was a marksmen, but lost the use of his eyes but now has multiple cameras on his body directly wired to his optic nerves that allow him to see everything. Garrison is seemingly set to lead his fellow soldiers, however, after a flood of memories come back about the death of his wife, he sets off on a mission to find and kill Axe.

After successfully terminating Axe, Garrison returns to RST only to have the full truth revealed. Harting has been using Garrison as an assassin to eliminate targets of his choosing. To ensure that Garrison attacks his target with outright fury and efficiency, Harting replays the initial movie sequence but with a different man killing his wife every time. The rest of the crew RST play along with the long refined script to ensure that Garrison always sets off on his mission. However, Harting’s next target is prepared for the attack and leads Garrison to begin to understand the vicious cycle. Now he must attempt to free himself from the bonds of Harting while battling psdueo super-soldiers and the endless tech that RST has at it’s disposal.

Bloodshot

Full disclosure, I was not familiar with the Bloodshot comics and I did not watch the trailer prior to my viewing. So while this is the plot shown in the trailer and more or less the plot of the comic, I thought it was carried out very well. The beginning scenes, particularly when Garrison is with his wife, did have some choppy transitions and slightly cringey dialogue but it all comes makes when it revealed that it as just a simulation. Once Pearce takes the screen, it is apparent that the film has much more thought and acting experience than the premise would give it credit for.

The script really turns what could have been a Hardcore Henry-esque shoot-em up into something more in the vain of Upgrade with its world-building and storytelling. At the end of the day, that is Bloodshot attempting to do. Columbia Pictures is attempting to make a Valiant Comics universe with this film being the first in a five film deal. By putting the time into adapting a quality script as well as tapping quality actors and letting the action take care of itself, this may be the first cinematic universe to have legs (cybernetic or otherwise).

An underrated part of Bloodshot that I hope more people appreciate is the subtle comedy sprinkled throughout the film. In such a serious plot of a man who is consistently forced to watch his wife be murder to subsequently going on a vengeful killing spree, I laughed way more than I thought I would. Diesel delivers some quality one liners while he learning about RST that had my theater chuckling. There is also your stereotypical tech guy humor with both Siddharth Dhananjay and Lamorne Morris but it very self-aware of how cheesy they are. They both have the comedic timing given their previous roles that their time on screen had the biggest laughs of the night.

Bloodshot

Outside of the surprises in acting and dialogue, Bloodshot really shines in its action sequences. Despite its PG-13 rating, there are times where I winced as Diesel undoubtedly punched holes through anyone is way or kicked and threw large objects directly into the path of anyone who stood in his way. The tech at play also allow Diesel and the other augmented soldiers to perform mind boggling fears which given the circumstances comes as more believable than Dominic Toretto collapsing a parking garage.

With that said, this is where the film might lose some people who are there for the action. In the third act, the CGI is a bit overdone at points. Not that effects in the movie are done terribly as much of the film has CGI elements has Garrison consistently gets parts of himself blown off and repaired with nanites. However, I was taken out of the movie slightly on how not consistent the CGI as the end fight scenes take place.

Despite the issues in CGI, I thoroughly enjoyed Bloodshot. It isn’t the kind of introductory movie that Iron-Man was. However, it is so much more than simple action movie. I can already see the issues viewers will have with film if you go in expecting an Academy Award winning screenplay. However, if you like Vin Diesel, near future sci-fi, action, easy to follow plots then you will enjoy Bloodshot. Given the action set pieces and the mostly quality CGI, I would certainly recommend seeing it in theaters.

Of all the cinematic universes that have been proposed in the last decade, this is one that has me not only excited for the future of the series but also wanting to go back and read the Bloodshot series. The series is rumored to have four movies planned; a sequel to Bloodshot, two movies on the Harbinger series and a crossover of the two. Given Bloodshots’s reasonable $45 million budget, Columbia Pictures may have something on their hands to keep us comic book fans satisfied until the next phase of the MCU.

Bloodshot will be in theaters nationwide on March 13, 2020.

Bloodshot
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    Rating - 8/10
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TL;DR

Despite the issues in CGI, I thoroughly enjoyed Bloodshot. It isn’t the kind of introductory movie that Iron-Man was. However, it is so much more than simple action movie. I can already see the issues viewers will have with film if you go in expecting an Academy Award winning screenplay. However, if you like Vin Diesel, near future sci-fi, action, easy to follow plots then you will enjoy Bloodshot.