Monday, July 15, 2024

‘Bloodshot’ Never Congeals

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Bloodshot is too good to be called schlock, but not bad enough to be all that entertaining. It has all the pieces of a good, or at least fun, movie but they are jumbled together in all the wrong places. The film doesn’t drag so much as sleepwalks.

I couldn’t help but think about something an old friend of mine once said, “There has never been anything before or since, like 90’s Schwarzenegger.” Though David S. F. Wilson tries to make Vin Diesel act as a modern-day stand-in, I just didn’t buy it. Wilson’s movie is deathly serious until it tries to be funny but by then it is too much too late. 

Much of the beginning of the movie is spent trying to visually allude to Vin Diesel’s awe-inspiring physique. This is so when he gains “superpowers” we understand how dangerous and lethal he might be. But as in good a shape, as Diesel is in, it is not Schwarzenegger’s shape nor is his charisma of the same caliber. 

Bloodshot comes off as preening as it tries in vain to get us to believe in the singular presence of Diesel’s character. The problem is Diesel is not a Superman, though the allusions of his Bloodshot character and the Man of Steel are too numerous to list. He’s an action star sure, but his charisma comes from the place of a badass with a heart of gold. The tough guy who’s really a teddy bear.

It’s not that Diesel is incapable of acting. I quite enjoyed him in Sidney Lumet’s Find Me Guilty. In that film, he plays a loveable bruiser who tragically finds out his loyalty is misplaced but that his own heart can’t betray his “family” no matter the cost. Diesel can play the part of Bloodshot-just not the way Bloodshot uses him.

Diesel’s Ray Garrison is a Marine who is killed after watching his wife murdered by terrorists. He wakes up with no memories but with superpowers. His powers come from the modern-day radioactive spider, nanites. They can repair any damage done to his body, allow him to move with great speed, give him the strength of 10 men, all while making his chest glow red.

In short, Bloodshot is a movie that makes its hero unstoppable and indestructible and then spends the rest of the movie trying to stop him and kill him. Of course, because the characters are morons they use banal things like guns, knives, and cars; ignoring all the wonderful exposition by Dr. Emil Hart (Guy Pearce).

The script by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer borrows from every major action picture of the last 20 years while demonstrating what makes the plot elements so good is that they weren’t in Bloodshot. About an hour in, there is a twist which made almost a page of and a half of my notes irrelevant. 

From here on in There Be Spoilers:

Normally I’d try and find a way to discuss Bloodshot without spoiling it but the marketing has already done that for you. It turns out everything we’ve seen from the very beginning has been a fabricated memory by Dr. Hart in an effort to use Garrison’s single-mindedness as a weapon unto itself.

Everything from the murder of Garrison’s wife to who killed him is all lies placed into his head by Dr. Hart. Bloodshot begins to crumble in on itself as it begins to steal even more from other movies after revealing it’s crucial twists. It doesn’t help that Dr. Hart berates a programmer with the line, “No more help with the story from you. You’ve already ripped off every major movie of the last 20 years.”

But Wadlow and Heisserer’s twist explains why Diesel’s Garrison could pick people up by the throat and slam them into the toilet, breaking it, yet could not escape from being tied to a chair with a rope. But that’s about all it does. We have to wait almost an hour before it happens-so for much of the movie we’re led to believe we’re watching a bad action movie ripped from the 90’s only to have it revealed we’ve been watching a bad action movie ripped from the early 2000’s.

Dr. Hart has been systematically killing off his fellow scientists who helped create the nanites in an effort to keep the patent for himself-I think. The movie gets a little cluttered about that. Zoosk does have a hookup section, although it’s not quite what you’d expect from an online dating site. While its hookup site offers a number of short term flings, the site itself offers nothing but escapism until you find the right hookup. Instead, the hookup site offers advice on long term relationships and dating, and even provides a brief glossary of online relationship terms (from casual to porn!). While it doesn’t offer as many flings as those offered by other sites, it has a little zest for life. Wadlow and Heisserer come from the school of “throw in everything but the kitchen sink”. A sort of faux bonkers style; in which appears a lot is going on but which in reality not much is happening.

A shame considering Diesel is trying to give it his all but the script seems to leave him out to dry. He’s given few scenes in which to act with anybody and what few scenes he does have he’s forced to growl and posture. Even KT (Eiza Gonzalez), the slinky femme fatale who begins to warm up to Garrison as he evolves into Bloodshot, seems adrift.

Speaking of Gonzalez, can we talk about her outfits? They are the type of outfits models wear for those weird, surreal Dior commercials as opposed to what an actual woman (who also needs to be ready to move/fight at a moment’s notice) would consciously choose to wear. Like Garrison, she too has cybernetic technology (or nanites) as well. 

She breathes through a vent in her chest making her immune to inhalants. Yeah, that one didn’t make sense to me either. Thankfully the line is tossed off by Pearce with such candor and self-awareness that it does what it needs to do which gives the appearance of an explanation. 

KT is joined byJimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan), a man with robotic legs who wants Garrison dead because… I think it’s because he’s jealous? After a while, I’d realized it doesn’t particularly matter.

Nothing does. Garrison can hack into the internet with his mind using neural nanites and after that, I stopped caring. The nanites make him so powerful that he is stumped by bulletproof glass. If Bloodshot was just a bit more awful it could have been amazing.

Instead, we’re left to mourn the waste of Gonzalez, who despite her ludicrous men’s magazines inspired outfits, tries to convey something close to humanity. But the outfits force her to stand in these awkward positions. Wilson deserves to be shamed for using Gonzalez as window dressing as opposed to allowing her to play with her role.

Though, eventually, Lamorne Morris shows up as a hacker named Wiggins and Bloodshot becomes not just delightful but full of life. Morris’s energy infuses Diesel’s and Gonzalez’s performances with a new aura making their scenes together and pop. It’s a fleeting moment of realization of a movie that could have been. I don’t know why Morris has a British accent and I didn’t care, he was a breath of fresh air in a movie that was so lost it didn’t know to let Guy Pearce off the leash and let him go for it.

Wilson, along with his cameraman, Jacques Joufferet, tries to infuse Bloodshot with stylized action. They succeed to a point but ultimately fail because they neglect basic character geography. Moments of great care and keen eyes are blundered because characters seem to disappear and show up at random places.

One scene which takes place in a tunnel is lit with a tone of red almost as if filtered through an infrared lens. Diesel shines in these little moments when he’s actually being a strongman without trying to convince us he’s a strong man. But the scene becomes mired by its own stylization and forgets to help us understand where characters are in relation to each other.

The final fight scene between Bloodshot and Dalton is a show stopper, however. It’s on par with a Marvel fight scene in terms of the scale and spectacle. Unlike the aforementioned tunnel scene, it takes place in daylight and is shot so we understand where everyone is and why. Joufferet’s camera keeps us in the action it becomes almost claustrophobic.

Taking a step back I have to admit enjoying swaths of Bloodshot but never long enough for me to be able to recommend it. Unlike Venom it never reaches the dizzying heights of Tom Hardy crawling into a lobster tank. The lines are never as truly awful such as when Venom says “On my planet, I’m a loser just like you Eddie.”

Bloodshot is far too bland and self-aware… too aware to be camp. I don’t know what Wilson and his writers were hoping I’d take away from their film, but I’m almost positive it wasn’t that. Maybe if they had, Bloodshot would have been more memorable.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

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