'Bloodshot' Review: Vin Diesel's Superhero Flick Is A Big Snooze

It takes Vin Diesel exactly 8 minutes to put on a white tank-top in Bloodshot. I'm tempted to end this review right here, since that's probably all you need to know about the film. It's designed to play to Diesel's strengths, which are: Looking constipated and/or sleepy, punching things, and wearing tank-tops. By those standards, Bloodshot is a smashing success. By all other standards, though, Bloodshot misses the mark.

Diesel plays Ray Garrison, a heroic Marine who wants nothing more than to kill some bad guys and then go home and awkwardly canoodle with his wife, Gina (Talulah Riley). But fate has other plans. Out of seemingly nowhere, Ray and Gina are abducted by the wonderfully named Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), a guy we know is evil because he wears socks with sandals. After some lighthearted torture, Ray is forced to watch Gina be murdered, and is then murdered himself.

Or is he? After his apparent demise, Ray wakes up in a secret government facility run by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), who promptly informs Ray that after his death his body was donated to science, at which point Dr. Harting replaced all of Ray's blood with nanobots. This upgrade has made Ray all but indestructible, which makes him the perfect super-soldier. And he's not alone – there are other super-soldiers about. There's KT (Eiza González), who has herself some enhanced lungs. And there's Jimmy (Sam Heughan), who has a robotic body frame with extra robo-arms. KT seems kind and welcoming to Ray, but Jimmy is a total unsubtle creep from the get-go.

After some very, very rushed exposition, Ray heads out looking for bloody revenge against Martin Axe. But ah, there's more going on here than meets the eye. You see, Dr. Harting isn't the benevolent scientist he made himself out to be. And Martin Axe didn't kill Ray's wife. Instead, Dr. Harting and his team of nerdy – and I guess evil? – IT guys have programmed false memories into Ray's head. They swap out a different target in Ray's mind as his wife's killer, Ray goes out and bumps that guy off, and then Ray's memory is erased and he's forced to do it all over again. One has to wonder if the casting of Pearce – who underwent a similar character trajectory in Memento – is a fun bit of stunt-casting. If so, it's the only real "fun" thing going on in Bloodshot.

Clearly intended to jumpstart a new superhero franchise, Bloodshot frequently feels like a holdover of a bygone era – the type of superhero movie they were making around the time of Ben Affleck's Daredevil, or Nicolas Cage's Ghost Rider. There's nothing fresh here, and while the occasional shot of Diesel's face being blown off only to then regenerate is neat, and director Dave Wilson is able to milk some stylish flourishes here and there, like when he stages a fight sequence in a red-lit tunnel – Bloodshot plays it too safe. This material requires a full-blown pulp approach, but so much of the film involves Diesel laying around while Pearce and his team yell stuff at computer screens.

Material like this could ultimately be saved by some cool action beats, but Bloodshot has none. A climactic battle with Ray and another character falling off the side of a building is so cartoonish, with the actors rendered as rubbery CGI blobs, that it borders on incompetent. Perhaps they accidentally put some of the pre-viz animation in the film by mistake.

No one will ever accuse Vin Diesel of having range, but he seems particularly lost here. There's nothing remotely interesting about Ray, before and after he gets his robo-blood. In fact, Ray isn't even a character. He's just Vin Diesel, or at least the Vin Diesel persona we've seen in a dozen movies by now – a beefy dope who knows how to throw a punch but can't emote to save his life. That may work fine when he's delivering speeches about family in the Fast and Furious franchise. But in films like Bloodshot, it just doesn't cut it, and no amount of scenes where Diesel has to yell, "You know nothing of men like me!" can convince us otherwise. Bloodshot may find itself an audience, but in the end, it won't be very surprising if this is the last we see of Vin Diesel's Ray Garrison.

/Film Rating: 4 out of 10