Bloodshot, aka Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel), an elite soldier with several successful missions under his belt, sees his wife killed before his eyes and vows revenge against her murderer. There’s just one problem: he was killed too. But Garrison wouldn’t let something like death stop him, would he?
David S.F. Wilson (director), Eric Heisserer and Jeff Wadlow (screenplay writers), Jacques Jouffret (cinematographer), Jim May (editor)
Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Tallulah Riley, Lamorne Morris, Guy Pearce (cast)
March 13, 2020
Full disclosure — I haven’t ever met Bloodshot in my few forays into the Valiant Comics-universe. That’s mainly because I have only read Faith and Livewire, so yeah, my knowledge of Bloodshot is pretty much academic.
That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to watch the film; it was the start of the quarantine period, and the apocalypse was literally happening outside. Any distraction was welcome and it only made sense to find a superhero film to watch. I love superheroes and have watched — and loved — my fair share of super-failures. How bad could Bloodshot be?
Bad. So. So. So bad!
Look, I’m becoming less forgiving in my old age, and I expect perfection after a lifetime of watching films that place me firmly on the outside of the genre. Films like Birds of Prey, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman have begun to pave the way towards more diversity and a change in point-of-view in a genre that has rarely ever seen anyone who wasn’t a non-disabled cis white straight man as the default hero.
But we have a long way to go if Bloodshot is anything to go by. Everything that Birds of Prey does fantastically well, Bloodshot utterly fails at at in its opening scenes. Sigh.
Bloodshot suffers from man-pain syndrome; the entire film thrives on it. Garrison is motivated by the death of his wife, who exists purely to drive his arc and is shot in excruciatingly male gazey angles. I fail to understand how Hollywood is still creating “wife” roles in 2020: women with absolutely no inner life or personality aside from their relation to the men around them have no business still existing in contemporary fiction.
It would be bad enough if it was just the wife who was given such treatment. The sole female character with any screen time, KT (Eiza González), also only exists to further Bloodshot’s narrative. KT is given a perfunctory introduction and then spends the rest of the film being the only person sympathetic to Garrison’s plight. Because women are soft and are hit by the feels, dontcha know?
I was still willing to give Bloodshot a chance — despite the dead wife trope that fueled the story — but KT’s underwater interpretive dance, which is meant to put Garrison at ease/attract his attention told me that this film was not for me. I have thought about this scene many times since watching it and I still don’t know what the point is. Apart from cringe-ing the audience out, that is.
Actually, let’s go back to one of the earlier scenes, when the main villain, Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), is introduced. He’s set up as someone menacing but Bloodshot’s too cool for that, you guys! Martin Axe wears a hoodie and sneakers and dances to goofy songs—Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” to be precise — while he outlines his plan to kill Garrison’s wife, and then Garrison.
This “reveal” about the killer should have been surprising and cool — instead, one just feels the need to hold one’s head in their hands wondering why Toby Kebbell just can’t catch a break. Poor guy — first Fant4stic, now this.
All these scenes that I’ve been complaining about all happen within the first 20 minutes of the film. There’s so much more after this and it is just as bad, if not worse.
I think the biggest problem with Bloodshot is that the trailer gave away that fact that Garrison was reliving the death of his wife as part of a programme that made him a super-soldier. Because we definitely don’t have any such characters in fiction already, right?
I hate trailers and I refuse to watch them, and Bloodshot is a perfect example of why I should keep up that practice. Trailers either straight up lie to you — including scenes that end up getting cut from the film — or they reveal way too much, spoiling the viewing experience before you get to the hall. Though it’s a pain in the neck to avoid trailers of films — and the endless screenshots and GIFs from them on the internet — it’s worth the effort if a film can surprise you from the get-go.
Unfortunately, I had already seen the Bloodshot trailer when I’d gone to watch the rare film in the cinema hall. (Remember those? I miss them.) So, the reveal in the film was ruined and it never really picked up from that moment. That’s something I just don’t understand about this film; if you’re going to put the big twist in the trailer, the rest of the film has to give the audience some value. But nothing spectacular happens. Bloodshot keeps killing the bad guys until he finds out that everything, including his dead wife, is a lie. Then KT decides she can’t let this continue either and helps him — but why couldn’t she do that before? Because… reasons.
Sam Heughan’s Jimmy Dalton decides he hates Garrison for undisclosed reasons and fights him in some of the worst CGI action scenes I have seen in a long, long time. This was Justice League-level awful CGI. How does that even happen?
Bloodshot’s other major problem is that Vin Diesel is supposed to be an everyday-guy who gets dealt a bad hand; that’s what’s supposed to make you care about him. But when you watch the film, you don’t see Ray Garrison: you see Vin Diesel, or at the very least, Dominic Toretto from the Fast and Furious films. Diesel does what he can with the role, but it’s impossible to divorce Garrison from the actor and that makes an already bad film even worse.
I can’t think of a single thing that I actually enjoyed about Bloodshot — maybe that it distracted me from the apocalypse for a bit? The combination of shoddy plotting, overdone tropes, the male gaze, bad acting, and horrendous CGI made this film one of the worst things I have had to see with my own two eyes. What a bad start to the Valiant-verse.