While many movies are being delayed because of coronavirus concerns, Bloodshot still opened in theaters. The new movie starring Vin Diesel did earn a low Rotten Tomatoes score from critics who got advanced screenings. However, despite their faults with the film, it’s not nearly as unfocused as many of them made it sound. First, before we go further, if you’ve not yet seen Bloodshot, don’t worry as this will be a non-spoilery review. We won’t spoil any surprises that weren’t already spoiled in the Bloodshot trailer.
Our review of Bloodshot is going to be atypical. We’ll first talk about what story the movie is trying to tell. Then we’ll talk about how well they execute that vision. Because, as much as I enjoyed the movie, there is a slight disconnect there. I did not see the trailer for this movie, so I was caught totally by surprise by an important paradigm shift that happens. In fact, if you want to see this movie completely cold, despite our Bloodshot review avoiding spoilers, you might want to stop, bookmark the review, and come back after you’ve seen it. Spoilers don’t usually bother me. However, I can’t deny that being surprised by the twist fans knew was coming helped me appreciate the film more.
Still with us? Okay. Let’s start by talking about the story.
The Bloodshot Story Review Or How They Tricked Me But Good
Image via Sony Pictures
Bloodshot is the first effort from a partnership between Sony Pictures and Valiant Entertainment. The character of Bloodshot was one of the first breakout heroes from the company started by ex-Marvel Comics employees. Again, I never read these books and knew nothing about the character. Yet, the story in the film is a fairly faithful retelling of his origin. Bloodshot is Ray Garrison, a former US soldier killed in action. A shady company called Rising Spirit brings him back to life and imbues him with superpowers thanks to nanites in his blood.
At first, I kind of understood Bloodshot’s bad reviews. In the first half-hour, the story unfolds at a pace so fast audiences barely had a chance to feel anything about the characters. Littered with action movie clichés, it almost felt like the film wasn’t even trying. Confusion started to set in when what I assumed would be the driving force of the film wrapped up by the end of the first Act.
Then, they dropped the twist I didn’t know was coming. See, the bad guys were manipulating Garrison’s memories to make him a hitman. He believed his targets murdered his wife. It was at this moment, that I started looking at the film with new eyes. It’s also a somewhat subversive message for a kill-em-all action movie. Instead of painting Garrison’s single-minded relentless quest for revenge as a good thing, it became his greatest weakness.
As an origin story for a larger franchise or merely a superhero one-off, Bloodshot works either way. This film has something to say about free will, why soldiers do what they do, and the cost of casting aside those who’ve served once they are “broken.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to say all that much.
The Bloodshot Film Review Or Where The Project Does Struggle
Image via Sony Pictures
The first sign of trouble for Bloodshot is its running time at just one hour and 45 minutes. I wasn’t sure if that was long enough to tell the straightforward story I thought they were going for. Once I realized that this film had layers to it, I cringed even more about its length. While watching the movie, even before the twist, I thought this would have made for a perfect Netflix series, like Altered Carbon. If it had been a series, the first act of the film could have been slowed down for character moments, the first hour ending with the big twist.
As it stands, the movie is good, but it feels incredibly rushed. Some of the rushed feeling is intentional. I rolled my eyes when, after about 20 minutes, Garrison starts using his powers in ways he didn’t even know he could. This makes sense when you discover this isn’t his first time using them. However, the alliances that Garrison builds throughout the movie feel too convenient. Why these folks help the character is something of a mystery. In fact a key moment, where two characters in opposition decide to team up, happens off-screen.
With only a $45 million budget, the heavy CG effects look better than they should. The fight scenes are thrilling. The weakest fight in a superhero movie is almost always the final battle, but even that is well done. The “bad” action movie tropes used in the first half-hour are purposefully included. Yet, once it gets serious, the movie doesn’t change its approach.
I still maintain Bloodshot would work better as a series. Still, the film could have used at least another 30 minutes to catch its breath and establish more meaningful character relationships.
Grade: A Valiant Effort (Pun Fully Intended)
Unlike with Spider-Man: Far From Home or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I had no emotional attachment to Bloodshot before writing this review. Also, my expectations were low based on the response it got from critics who saw pre-screenings. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I hope that Sony Pictures and Valiant Entertainment get another bite at the franchise apple. To be clear, this isn’t one for the kids nor is Bloodshot a “hero” in the way most comic book characters are. Yet, up against other action movies where the hero goes on a blood-soaked rampage for revenge, Bloodshot actually has something different to say.
Bloodshot is in theaters now.
Did you see the movie? Share your own review of Bloodshot in the comments below.
Featured image via Sony Pictures
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.