Review: Vin Diesel and ‘Bloodshot’ deliver what you’d expect in a silly sci-fi action film

Vin Diesel in the movie 'Bloodshot'
Vin Diesel in the movie “Bloodshot.”
(Graham Bartholomew/Sony Pictures)

Every few years, Vin Diesel likes to remind audiences that he does do movies that are not of the fast and furious or alien tree variety. He’ll throw in “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” or “The Last Witch Hunter” to remind us all he’s more than Groot or Dom Toretto. He can also be a generic action star with a gravelly voice and a contract that requires him to be in a tank top for at least 70% of the movie. And so arrives the obligatory “Bloodshot,” an adaptation of the Valiant Comics character of the same name, directed by video game auteur David S.F. Wilson in his big screen debut, with a script by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer.

“Bloodshot” begins in a very expected way for this kind of thing. After a violent hostage extraction in Kenya, special ops soldier Ray Garrison (Diesel) retires to the Amalfi Coast for some R&R with a comely blonde, Gina (Talulah Riley), apparently his wife. Before long they’re picked up by some “psycho killer” (Toby Kebbell) who menacingly dances to the Talking Heads in a meat locker while demanding to know some information about Ray’s mission. Before you can wonder just who the heck this guy is, Ray wakes up in a lab, where he’s been brought back to life as a technologically enhanced super soldier.

With a bloodstream full of microscopic machinated mites to rebuild his body in combat, Ray is RoboCop with the self-regenerating power of the T-1000. But his all-too-human memories of murder and mayhem mean he’s hell-bent on revenge. You know how they say trauma is stored in the body? Ray’s trauma still lives somewhere in his cells, even after he’s Frankensteined back to life by the charming technologist with a robot arm, Dr. Harting (Guy Pearce). But, are those memories even his, and what larger purpose do they serve?

This is a supremely silly Diesel vehicle, allowing the earnest action star to deliver lines such as “You used me … to kill,” with the utmost seriousness. But the writers are also clever enough about the genre tropes to poke fun at them. Visually, there are some neat moments with the “nanites” in Ray’s veins, though there are times when the movie feels like watching visual effects artists lay down half-rendered pre-visualizations, which is kind of the point. Predictably, it descends into a meaningless blur of gravity-defying physics and robotic limbs. By the end, a lot of violence is happening and you’re never sure exactly why or even how.

“Bloodshot” wants to be a treatise of sorts on privatized surveillance, artificial intelligence and war profiteering. And in many ways, it pulls that off, especially with Pearce as the philosophically slimy Dr. Harting. But the filmmakers have the good sense to let that subversion coexist alongside Diesel’s sincerity, so it remains a bewildering piece of good-bad sci-fi action trash. Do any of the characters have clearly articulated motives? No. Are the action sequences a confounding geographical jumble? Indeed. Does Lamorne Morris shout “He’s overclocking the nanites!” in a cockney accent? Of course he does. What more could you possibly expect from a movie called “Bloodshot”? Nothing.


Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.


Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some suggestive material and language

Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes

Playing: Starts March 13 in general release