Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 03/16/20 21:04:42

"A valiant, if familiar, effort."
3 stars (Average)

Valiant Comics has, at points in its various incarnations, sometimes been the third-most popular shared universe in the medium, and that's a rough place to be - who needs to keep up with more of those after Marvel and DC, even when they do land some decent talent? But everyone wants a piece of what Marvel's got, so more of them are springing up despite the fact that will take years to build up the same sort of catalog, and Sony figures they might as well try making a couple films from one of the lesser-known lines, which has its fans and, who knows, may just be fun enough to connect when it's not being swamped with similar, more-established competition on a given week.

They start with Bloodshot, which is a film built for those who no longer need to be eased into a superhero universe or find such things particularly extraordinary: When Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is revived after a seemingly-fatal gunshot wound with a bloodstream full of reconstructive nanotechnology, he's surrounded by others with advanced prostheses right away, and it not only doesn't take long before he finds that these nanites somehow give him not just the stamina to push through injury, but enhanced strength and an always-on internet connection because of all the nanites in his brain, but everyone rolls with it without much question. It's kind of odd that nobody either references that this sort of larger-than-life thing happens all the time or acts surprised, but by now audiences have been seeing these things long enough to easily skp over the preliminaries and catch when the filmmakers throw a wink in their direction.

Even if that attitude lets things move smoothly, it does rather make the film feel like the plot is something of an obligation. Even without the previews laying out more of the film than seems typical - and credit writers Jeff Wadlow & Eric Heisserer and director Dave Wilson for making a movie with enough with and snappy pacing that its opening half can survive a bunch of its reversals and revelations being spoiled by the ad campaign - there are relatively few surprises here, and sometimes a lot of corners cut. The group Ray finds himself winds up choosing sides in fairly arbitrary manner as the film heads to its conclusion, and while the big confrontation at the climax has him yelling "you don't know anything about people like me", it's hard to avoid the fact that the audience doesn't either. It's the sort of movie that has so much misdirection to keep the viewer guessing that it doesn't have room for the bits that would give that sort of moment a solid foundation.

It can cruise on a decent cast much of the time, at least. Vin Diesel is the sort of guy who is good within a certain range, and Ray Garrison is the sort of tough guy with a fierce focus but a semi-soft center that he makes work if the movie doesn't ask him to do too much - though him staying within his comfort zone often means dropping more on Eiza González, who is a little more sincere than this often self-aware film needs her to be. It's got a number of scene-stealers in Lamorne Morris, Siddharth Dhananjay, and Toby Kibbell, who hit the right elevated tone, and useful work from Sam Heughan as the most happily amoral henchman. Perhaps most importantly, it's got Guy Pearce, who can move the guy creating all these cyborg enhancements from cheerful philanthropist to sociopath with just a small shift. It's quality character-actor villainy.

The action is also well-designed; Wilson and the crew build action that blends stunt and visual effects work fairly well, especially given that by the end, a lot of the characters are enhanced and fairly used to their new beyond-human capabilities. It's not quite Alita: Battle Angel in that regard, but it's a bit more creative than the average superhero movie's "punches, but harder" action. It still gets a little choppy on a few occasions - for a big guy whose physicality is his claim to fame, Diesel seems to get obviously doubled an awful lot, and a few of the faster-moving bits could use some more room to breathe - but there are certainly enough points where the combination of striking visuals and creative choreography stand out from the less clever story around them.

Having stuff stand out is what these not-exactly-iconic comic books and the films based upon them have to do, and "Bloodshot" does that well enough in spurts that its basic redundancy. It's okay enough that it won't be a complete disconnected oddity if Sony doesn't get a franchise out of it though it's not a bad thing to build on with "Faith", "Harbinger", or "X-O Manowar" if they so choose.

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