I am fascinated by Vin Diesel. The rough, doughy, gravelly voiced actor has managed to become one of the world’s biggest movie stars, in spite of the fact most of his films range from “ludicrous” to “terrible.” For nearly 20 years, he’s been anchoring the multi-billion-dollar “Fast & Furious” franchise, which has given him the kind of freedom and fortune for which most actors would kill. When he’s not making movies about fast cars and saying “family” in his monosyllabic baritone, he appears in bloated, big-budget spectacles that audiences tend to ignore.
“Bloodshot” is like every action movie I saw in the early 2000s—blockbuster films churned out before Marvel came along and changed the landscape of big-screen entertainment. Think “The One” with Jet Li or “Aeon Flux” with Charlize Theron or any film with Dwayne Johnson, back when he was still referred to as The Rock. Pair a little science-fiction with some over-the-top action, and you get something thinly plotted and poorly acted with almost abusive amounts of computer effects.
Vin Diesel plays Slab Anderson, a bloated meat puppet that walks and talks like a man. After attending the world’s most prestigious flower-arranging academy, L’orgasme Floral, Slab meets and falls in love with a Portuguese vintner. She has a strange affliction that makes both of her eyes appear perpetually bloodshot. Can Slab learn to love someone that looks stoned 24 hours a day while graduating at the top of his class and winning the annual World Floral Arrangement Competition?
Sadly, that is not the plot of “Bloodshot.” The actual story involves Ray Garrison, a beefy soldier who is killed and brought back to life with amazing superpowers—because every damn blockbuster nowadays has to be a comic-book adaptation about how some random asshole gets amazing abilities. Ray is injected with millions of tiny robots that help repair his body, augment his strength and heighten his senses. Basically, Ray can smell anyone sneaking around with a Taco Bell chalupa in his pocket from a mile away.
Like all heroes from comic-book adaptations, Ray has to find the person responsible for killing a loved one and exact bloody vengeance. Initially, all his rage and anger is focused on the man he believes killed his wife, but Ray learns his memories might not be completely reliable. Ray’s resurrection is financed by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), a wealthy mad scientist who has assembled a team of ex-soldiers to use as cybernetic guinea pigs. As Ray digs deeper into the shady organization that is turning him into an impenetrable killing machine, he learns there may be ulterior motives and truths about his origins and powers.
I didn’t hate “Bloodshot.” That’s an important point to make. It is predictable, unoriginal, and there are some unintentionally hilarious moments, but I was always entertained. There’s a line near the beginning of the film where Ray and his military buddies are getting back from their mission. He sees his beautiful wife in the distance, and utters the line, “See that: That’s what we’re fighting for,” with such cringe-inducing sincerity I couldn’t help but laugh. “Bloodshot” is plagued with mediocre plotting, terrible dialogue and seizure-inducing editing. It’s a movie trying to move very quickly, in order to give the audience zero time to consider the goofiness being perpetrated.
Diesel is flanked by a half dozen actors doing their best to turn flimsy, stereotypical supporting characters into something marginally entertaining. The most interesting character is a computer genius, trying to get story notes on the fake memories he’s creating, only to be told he’s using every known cliché in the book.
What I liked about “Bloodshot” is how unapologetically trashy it is. There are no attempts to elevate this material to another level. This is a film that aspires to be a ridiculous action spectacle, and it ends up being stupidly entertaining. I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone wanting to see something good. But as far as dumpster fires go, this one is hypnotic.