Studio:      Columbia Pictures
Director:    David S.F. Wilson
Writer:      Jeff Wadlow, Eric Heisserer
Producer:  Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe, Dinesh Shamdasani, Vin Diesel
Stars:     Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley, Lamorne Morris, Guy Pearce, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Alex Hernandez, Siddharth Dhananjay

Review Score:



A slain soldier resurrected through nanotechnology uncovers a conspiracy connected to the organization that rebuilt him.



Vin Diesel enjoys a loyal fanbase, which is a population I¡¯m not currently a part of. I¡¯m open to joining. It¡¯s just that Diesel doesn¡¯t seem interested in opening up membership to new applicants.

Diesel is far from the first or only movie star to exercise iron grip control over his onscreen image. Certain celebrities are notorious for outrageous contract clauses. I¡¯m not even talking about offscreen amenities that specifically require things like green Oral-B toothbrushes or an airstrip for private plane transportation. I¡¯m talking about demanding a certain number of close-ups, more total minutes than a co-star, and other provisions that affect how filmmakers can compose their stories.

The particular problem with Diesel doing the latter is that he so meticulously monitors how he gets portrayed, this grim antihero he insists on embodying in virtually every film gets in the way of making broader and better entertainment. Xander Cage, Dominic Toretto, and Riddick are all cut from identical cloth. Kaulder might be too, except no one remembers ¡°The Last Witch Hunter¡± (review here). When can we see something else? While we¡¯re at it, why can¡¯t we see Diesel go up against a truly cool adversary who complements him in charisma? Is it because the last time that happened, producers had to spin off a second franchise since Diesel can¡¯t seem to share space with someone who challenges his range?

This brings us to ¡°Bloodshot,¡± where Vin Diesel once again gives his charcoal growl and stoic swagger to another interchangeable tough guy facing off against indistinct bad guys. Engineered for popcorn and Pepsi thrills anyway, the film still exhibits all of the sterilized slickness of an average action movie. But it misses a bigger pop of personality because of how much Diesel, specifically the actor and not even his character, has to always be the center of attention.

Diesel plays Ray Garrison, a Special Forces soldier from the Navy or Marines or Air Force, it doesn¡¯t really matter. After he and his beloved wife are killed by a terrorist taking revenge for a covert rescue mission, Ray ends up resurrected by Dr. Emil Harting. Project: Bloodshot seeks to create super-soldiers by transfusing blood with biomechanical nanites. Although other wounded vets in the program have appendages augmented by advanced tech, Ray becomes the first person with a full body capable of enhanced strength, agility, and regeneration.

To demonstrate what he can now do, we get a full two-minute montage of Ray in a tank top working a heavy bag before a camera zooms in on his biceps for dumbbell curls. You be the judge. Does this give the audience essential information or merely stroke Diesel¡¯s ego with indulgent vanity shots?

Naturally, Ray¡¯s next order of business is going after Martin Axe, the man who murdered Ray¡¯s wife. Evidence suggests Diesel really does require that other roles be incapable of upstaging him because this initial villain is weak in all regards. Toby Kebbell plays Martin like a routine comic book psychopath, dressing in a goofy outfit and dancing to a Talking Heads song before torturing a captive like no one remembers Michael Madsen in ¡°Reservoir Dogs.¡±

Screenwriters Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer think they get away with Martin¡¯s stereotyping using a line of dialogue that later reveals this is a scripted simulation deliberately based on a clich¨¦. They exit out this backdoor again at the ending when someone meta-mentions the tired trope of riding off into the sunset while the heroes literally ride off into a sunset. (The script couldn¡¯t be subtle if it tried. Foreshadowing Ray¡¯s Six Million Dollar Man reboot, Ray¡¯s wife warns about his black bag missions by saying, ¡°your body can¡¯t do this forever.¡±) Admitting they know what they¡¯re doing doesn¡¯t change the fact that Martin and the other baddies are still Plain Jane antagonists, and ¡°Bloodshot¡± deserves better.

Or does it? How far can I realistically fault a Vin Diesel vehicle for delivering to acceptable expectations for a mid-tier Hollywood stunt and FX extravaganza?

As these things tend to go, ¡°Bloodshot¡± is mostly ok in spite of the eye rolls it regularly prompts. The film plays like a stealth ¡°Terminator¡± sequel of sorts. Considering how underwhelming most of those are, I¡¯ve no choice but to give ¡°Bloodshot¡± a C+ for at least having a cooler plot, even if the majority of its characterizations fall flat underneath each standard story beat.

I want to appreciate Vin Diesel. I also want to see him finally embrace a role where his recycled haunted hero persona doesn¡¯t suck all the color completely out of a character. But while The Rock cracks wise with warmth and Jason Staham exhibits powder keg intensity, we¡¯ll have to settle for the usual formula of jokes built on small penis insults, fight sequences where each second contains six cuts, stylish slo-mo, even a setup where someone struts in front of an explosion. That¡¯s ¡°Bloodshot¡± for you. What else would anyone expect under the circumstances?

Review Score: 60