We’ve seen how tricky it can be to successfully follow the Marvel model of cinematic world-building. Universal’s Dark Universe stumbled at attempt number one with The Mummy. Guy Ritchie tried in vain to launch a King Arthur-verse. Even DC have had their tribulations with the DCEU. Now comes the turn of Valiant Comics, who arrive fashionably late to the shared cinematic universe game with Bloodshot. It’s just a shame that they didn’t spend all that extra time putting together a film that’s more than your first base basic Vin Diesel actioner.
In a cliché-riddled opening act, we meet Diesel’s Ray Garrison, a military man tragically torn from his wife, thrust into a revenge mission against the dancing, socks and sandals wearing villain Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell). Clawed back from the grip of death by the obviously-nefarious Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), Garrison’s rebuilt by the doctor’s nanotechnology, turned into a supersoldier, an unkillable weapon of mass destruction. So far, so silly. And yet it’s all very po-faced, taking itself far too seriously for its own good.
It’s when it pulls back the curtain on its big twist a third of the way through that it starts to lighten up. Does it improve for it?… Sort of. It at least shows some self-awareness over its stale opening, with plenty of wink-wink, in-on-the-act jokes – even if the remainder of the film still doesn’t exactly manage to offer up anything particularly fresh, Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer’s screenplay sticking far too rigidly to the superhero origin formula. And though they pack in lots of action, much of it’s so choppily edited that it does little more than wash right over. It’s not without its visual standouts, however; an early doors shoot up in a red light-soaked, dusty-aired tunnel hits the right notes, highlighting Garrison’s newfound powers with a smattering of flair – the film just doesn’t do so nearly as effectively again after this.
New Girl’s Lamorne Morris is introduced at the midpoint, breathing some life into proceedings, a charming presence in spite of his unconvincing cockerney accent, and Sam Heughan does better than you might expect with his limited material, a brooding force who holds his own in later combat scenes with action veteran Diesel. Otherwise though, it’s a supporting cast unlikely to live long in the memory; this is very much a Vin Diesel vehicle, for better and for worse. But unlike his other big franchises, he struggles to get this one out of first gear.
Rating (out of 5):