A Superhero Almost-Cyberpunk Film You Probably Missed Earlier this Year
Bloodshot is the latest quasi-Cyberpunk film based on the comic book superhero from the comic book series of the same name from Valiant Comics. Directed by David S. F. Wilson in his directorial debut, it was produced by Neal Moritz and Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious). Bloodshot was meant to be the first installment in a series of films set in a Valiant Comics shared cinematic universe, but after the pandemic put everyone’s plans on hold it’s anybody’s guess whether this will be the first part of a series of films.
This is a slick action-focused flick starring Vin Diesel as Marine Raymond “Ray” Garrison who is reborn by a team of scientists with nanotechnology after he almost dies trying to prevent his wife from being murdered. The nanites allow him to become somewhat of a superhuman, with enhanced strength, senses, and healing factor. Originally amnesiac after the operation, his memories start to come back to him as he trains with fellow super-soldiers, until he breaks out of the R&D facility to find the man that killed his wife. Yet nothing is as it seems as he begins a journey to regain his memory and rediscover an unclear past.
Dr. Harting explaining to Ray about how Nanites are, like, the best thing ever.
In addition to Vin Diesel in the titular role, we have Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3) playing lead scientist Dr. Emil Harting in charge of bringing Ray back to life. As he did in Iron Man 3, Pearce delivers another excellent performance of being serious, intelligent, ambitious, and dangerous all at the same time. Apparently Jared Leto had been considered for the role, which would have been another Cyberpunk film for him to star in (Blade Runner 2049), but ultimately the role went to Diesel as I guess they wanted the film to be more action-focused.
KT and Ray bonding over some shots.
Also cast are Sam Heughan (Outlander) as a fellow enhanced soldier and rival, Eida Gonzalez as KT, another fellow enhanced soldier sympathetic to Ray, Talulah Riley (Pride & Prejudice, Inception) as Ray’s wife, Lamorne Morris (New Girl) as computer programmer Wilfred Wigans, and Toby Kebbell (Fantasic 4, Black Mirror) as one of the villains.
Of all the members of the cast, the only other cast member that stood out for me in his performance was Morris’ character Wigans. We only meet him halfway through the film but he provides such a fun refreshing dose of comedic relief that it really lightens up an otherwise incredibly somber movie that, up until that point, felt like it took itself too seriously.
A Slow Beginning
The beginning is pretty lacklust at first–we have the soldier hero with his stunning wife (Gina, played by Talulah Riley, providing pretty clear exposition for what’s to come). This eventually leads to a emotionally intense torture scene that really sets into motion the entire film.
This film has a smattering of high-tech elements. Noteworthy are Guy Pearce’s Cybernetic hand, along with the other slightly augmented super-soldiers. One has bionic legs, which is pretty common to see, but another has a bionic chestplate that serves as his eyes and yet another has a bionic breathing apparatus that that was a novel idea for me to see. Dr. Harting calls it laryngotrachyal reconstruction with a clavical-mounted respirator (which means she can breathe through her chest). Other later tech includes bionical arms and portable drones with cameras that create live 3D video feed delivered straight inside a soldier’s helmet to create a bird’s eye view on the go.
The tech that gives Bloodshot his superpower is the nanites that course through his bloodstream, giving him super strength and health regeneration. What I wasn’t expecting is that as an additional bonus they gave him the ability to both access the internet and be accessed by the internet at the same time. This allowed him to download skills and schematics much like Neo did to learn Kung Fu or Trinity did to learn how to fly a helicopter. It also allowed him to access information on the internet much like RoboCop might do to access outstanding warrants for arrest or where people are located.
Reality Construction Using Altered Memories
At 46 minutes in we are given the twist that was perhaps somewhat ruined in the trailer, which, if you haven’t seen yet, I won’t spoil for you. What I will mention about this is I really liked the virtual spaces that feature briefly in the film, as well as the questioning-reality moments from questioning if memories or real or not that was so well covered in movies like Total Recall elsewhere in the Cyberpunk genre. “It’s like what you think is real sometimes ain’t” explains a very colloquial Wigans.
Slow-Motion Over-The-Top Action scenes
One of the first action sequences we are offered is a scene in a tunnel with a flour truck that has spilled all its flour on the ground, and a convoy with military henchmen are using flares to defend themselves against an oncoming Bloodshot. Later action sequences involve more augmented soldiers in a Parkour-style chase scene including drones, a facility breakout scene, and later an epic battle near the end of the film (which is pretty much always to be expected for any major action film).
Heavy-Handed CGI use
There are moments when the use of CGI felt a big heavy-handed, almost like the movie had suddenly turned into a video game cut scene. I’m not sure if it was their intention to do this or they just really wanted super-cool action scenes, but for me it took me out of the moment in the movie a bit.
Bloodshot takes old familiar concepts and repackages them with some nice updated special effects, making for a good action film, but the lack of compelling characters, lackluster plot, and absence of any deep new ideas work against this film. Although I enjoyed the film, if I had to pinpoint where exactly this film miss-stepped, it would be lack of connection between the audience and the main character Ray. The entire film is based on the premise that we, the audience, should connect with him on a certain level and certainly care if he dies or not. It’s almost an assumption that we should based on how everyone else acts around Ray, but it simply didn’t deliver. Vin Diesel is a great action actor, but his strengths aren’t in conveying emotion, and unfortunately that was the missing element in this film.
Final Verdict: 7/10
If you’re looking for characters to connect with or a really interesting story, this movie might not fit the bill. But if you’re looking for an action film with a bit of a Cyberpunk twist, then this is a pretty good film. So if you want to spend a few hours with some fun action sequences and a high-production value, then Bloodshot is a film not to be missed!
Note: a version of this post has already been published on http://www.cyberpunks.com