Directed by David S.F. Wilson
Screenplay by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer
Starring Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Guy Pearce
Produced by Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe, Dinesh Shamdasani, Vin Diesel
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
There’s a new cinematic universe in town but if this is the best Valiant and Sony/Columbia can do, it might not be around for long. For better or for worse, the Marvel and DC cinematic universes have a distinct look and feel that defines their characters and settings. At their best, they become playgrounds for directors to twist the dials on visual aesthetic and genre expectations. At worst, they are wholly generic action movies and unfortunately, Bloodshot is a lot more like the former. Vin Diesel shows up to do what he’s done for his entire career, namely punch and grunt his way through two hours of screen time while the studio, who lost John Wick directors David Leitch and Chad Stahleski, went with first-time feature director David S.F. Wilson. This isn’t how you want to start off your big movie franchise, unless you’re deliberately trying to lower expectations.
It’s easy to understand the DNA of this movie, at least as Sony and Valiant initially constructed the pieces. The reimagining of Bloodshot’s origin in 2012 as amnesiac soldier Ray Garrison provides a backdrop that audiences can buy into easily. Writers Jaff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer have experience with comic book stories (not to mention, Heisserer has an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Arrival). The character’s powers are basically super strength and Wolverine’s healing factor plus a predeliction for gunplay. With John Wick’s directors onboard this could have been a homerun: a revenge movie with big action set pieces. But this movie is not that.
David S.F. Wilson steps in to direct, having only worked on cinematic video game trailers, and his unease with the material here is palpable. Action scenes are choppy and too zoomed in removing any of the stakes from just about any fight scene. Wilson fails to bring any sort of visual flair to the film really only leaning into his video game experience with a couple of sequences that look like someone building a video game world from scratch.
It’s not entirely Wilson’s fault, though. The script has a lot of potential in stops and starts but never quite does enough to establish a larger world and important stakes. This is a personal story but it still feels like a missed opportunity to not do more with the anxiety of having one’s memory altered, the fear of not knowing who you really are. Heisserer and Wadlow touch on those ideas occasionally but never really scratch the surface. Instead, we get a lot of macho action movie cliches and a host of poorly defined grunts for Diesel to fight while Guy Pearce’s villain chews the bland scenery.
In a way, it’s impressive that this doesn’t exactly feel like a superhero movie. There are no tights or capes. There’s not really a suiting up montage like you’d get in most superhero movies. We don’t see Diesel in his more recognizable pale skin Bloodshot look until the end of the movie. But considering how it all turned out and the fact that this is supposed to launch a shared universe, maybe the grounded approach wasn’t the best way to go. I think there’s a fundamental lack of understanding about why certain movies are successful and others aren’t.
It’s hard to buy Vin Diesel as a leading man without an extremely personable cast of characters around him. Bloodshot completely lacks this. If you’re going to put him in an action movie, you need to at least approach the level of quality of the Fast and Furious films in terms of both stunts and stakes. Bloodshot also completely lacks this. And if you’re going to get an audience onboard with a cinematic universe, you have to give them an icon to rally around (see: Iron Man, Superman), so Bloodshot might not have been the best character to build around.
In the doldrums of March, Bloodshot will likely make its money back and then some against weak to nonexistent competition. But it is a generic and soulless film that will likely feel deja vu even to people who aren’t familiar with the character. Diesel will meet your expectation of a Vin Diesel performance and Guy Pearce puts in some work as the villainous scientist but you’ll be hard pressed to remember any of the other characters’ names. The future looks grim for the Valiant cinematic universe if they can’t inject their next film with something resembling a personality.