Idon’t know if anyone keeps track of this sort of thing, but Vin Diesel must hold the record for most franchises for a B-list action star. Joining “Fast & Furious,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “XXX” and “Pitch Black” is “Bloodshot,” the first entry in the Valiant Cinematic Universe. An actor who no one hates and no one lines up for, Diesel plays the title character (real name: Ray Garrison) who speaks gruffly and seeks vengeance for the murder of his gal Gina (Talulah Riley).
The superhero angle is that Ray, a US Marine, is killed and brought back to life by a pseudo-legit high-tech agency with its own secret aims. He’s made out of nanites like the evil version of John Connor in “Terminator Genisys,” but he slowly regains his human memories.
Director Dave Wilson’s background is in special effects, and indeed, that is one of “Bloodshot’s” strengths. Ray gets shot in the face at close range and the visuals slow down to show us the nanites reforming his visage.
Unfortunately, the action is poorly staged and edited, particularly the first showcase of Bloodshot’s abilities. It’s set in a tunnel that becomes blocked off after a violent crash of a semi truck carrying flour. It’s lit only by flares, creating a small alien landscape on Earth. But as Bloodshot takes out his enemies, working his way toward the boss (Toby Kebbell’s Martin Axe) who killed Gina, the continuity from one shot to the next is indecipherable.
The incompetence of this sequence infects the project with a B-movie feel. And yet, the cast is remarkably good. Diesel might not show a lot of range these days, but within that range, he knows what he’s doing.
Guy Pearce plays Dr. Emil Harting, the genius scientist and leader of this band of reconstituted war veterans. He himself has a prosthetic arm, and members of his team have prosthetic legs and vision systems. I like how Pearce plays this supervillain in businesslike fashion, not getting too worked up about things.
The standout is Eiza González as KT, who has artificial lungs and whose suspicions of her boss parallel those of Bloodshot. Gonzalez has been in several films you’ve heard of, including a small turn in “Hobbs & Shaw.” Expressive and competent, KT gives heart to the story.
Working from the comic book that launched in 1992, writers Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer don’t infuse many surprises into “Bloodshot,” although it is a broadly competent piece of science fiction. It might’ve been nice to dig more into the emotional toll of Ray’s bizarre situation where he’s constantly reborn and thrown back into battle.
Then again, maybe not. This film flows over a viewer, with no piece of it having time to make a deep impression. It makes me think Wilson and his team are aware the “Bloodshot” doesn’t offer a lot that hasn’t been done before, in everything from “RoboCop” to “Edge of Tomorrow.”
It’s not grim enough to take seriously, nor fun enough to be a romp. But credit goes to Lamorne Morris, one of the goofballs from “New Girl,” who plays British-accented, noodle-loving Wigans. He provides Ray’s tech support and enough quips to keep things moving. Other than Wigans, there’s not much lightness in the screenplay, aside from one awkward moment when Harting’s tech guy Eric (Siddharth Dhananjay) mulls the idea of augmenting his penis.
As a superhero film, an actioner, a sci-fi flick and a tale of loss and revenge, “Bloodshot” never goes beyond rote competence. It’s content to be OK at everything. The next entry in the Valiant superhero universe is something called “Harbinger,” and then it’ll cross over with “Bloodshot” in the third film. I won’t rush to the theater, but if González remains a big part of this saga, I’m not gonna write it off entirely.