I’m certain there will be a name for this era of comic book films, where cinematic universes run rampant, franchises are gobbled up in expansion efforts, and thespians take vacations from the theatre to don capes and helmets.
Left behind in this whirlwind of, dare I say it, elevated comic book content, is the cheesy action film. Where are the Legions? The Punishers? The Judge Dredds? Bloodshot is here to answer the call.
Never trying to break free from the comic book action movies of old, Bloodshot is a throwback to the time where the best versions of familiar tropes laid atop a remixed story make for a blast of a night at the movies.
When soldier, Ray (Vin Diesel), returns from action, he senses he might have some lingering enemies. Surviving an ambush while on vacation with his wife, he and his wife are later killed by an information-seeking villain. Returning to the land of the living, Ray learns he’s been rebuilt with technology that’s replaced his blood with nanites, tiny bots that give him super strength, healing powers, and access to the world’s information. Bent on the need to avenge the love of his life, Ray sets off on a course to slaughter the man, or men, responsible for her death.
On the way through this story, based on a Valiant Comics series of the same name, Bloodshot has Ray bump into all the genre’s greatest hits; the button down and glasses-wearing weapons manufacturer, the quirky tech guy, the loose canon team member, the nice one, and the female with a confused moral compass. But that doesn’t hinder Bloodshot at all, it makes it exactly what it’s meant to be. Barely subverting some of these tropes with unforeseen ends, the movie uses the familiar formula to make an exceptional version of it. It doesn’t shy away from cliché at any point, which turns into a fun meta in-joke that sets itself off from the end of the first act.
This movie succeeds at being an action movie but fails at the action part of it. Though hard to lay official blame on the stars, direction or editing, the action scenes are cut like Liam Neeson climbing a fence. There are a few fights, specifically, the tunnel scene, that do almost everything right; the lighting, the atmosphere, the blocking and layouts, but are cut in such a way it’s hard to decipher who is where and when. In a climactic scene, there are finally some consistent visuals but the CGI fails to lift it above some cartoony faces and jerky movement. But the CGI is otherwise a delight. Ray is made up of teeny tiny robot particles, and in the spirit of the comic book character, can not quite shapeshift, but grab back onto his parts like an anatomically correct T-1000. There’s an early shot of Ray taking a bullet to the face and quickly repairing himself that sets the standard for the fun visuals this version of the character is going to bring.
Not a trope per se, but the movie manages to keep up the grand tradition of movies having no idea what to do with Toby Kebell who braves the work of being a villain Sam Rockwell should have played.
Sure, there’s some cheese, and not every joke lands like a well-timed ripping punchline, but you’ll forgive it for what it accomplishes otherwise. Though not layered in the way that comparable “off-brand” comic book films like Venom are, Bloodshot stays fun and it’s a tradition I’d like to see kept up.