I have long been a fan of Guy Pearce, whose penchant for taking on small but meaningful roles has created one of the most diverse and surprising resumes for an actor of his caliber. Each week in 2020, I’ll be reviewing one of my Guy’s films, exploring just how wild his career has been.
All we do is Vin, Vin, Vin, no matter what. Got Diesel on our minds, we can never get enough. And every time he shows up in the cineplex, everybody’s wallets open up! … AND THEY STAY THERE.
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Vin Diesel in the flesh onscreen, but he’s back in this month’s Bloodshot. It’s also been a full quarter-century since Diesel’s short-film debut caught Hollywood’s eye and eventually launched an improbably enduring career that spans several franchises.
As famous for his multi-ethnic makeup as his (sometimes literal) monosyllabic musings, here’s our monthlong ode to a guy whose career gets great mileage. This is All We Do is Vin.
David S.F. Wilson’s Bloodshot is a lame Universal Soldier ripoff starring an aged Vin Diesel as the title superhero. Ray Garrison (Diesel) is a soldier who is killed and resurrected by a tech company that specializes in prosthesis and augmentation. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce, with glorious gray temples) is the man in charge, clearly evil and using Garrison to his own ends. A few murders and gun battles later, Bloodshot creates his own crew of misfits to avenge those who cannot avenge themselves.
Nanites allow Bloodshot to heal from any wound and power his endless quest for dead-wife vengeance; he’s basically Wolverine mixed with the Punisher, but also boring.
Valiant, the comic book company that publishes Bloodshot, entered into a deal with Sony a few years ago to create an interconnected cinematic universe with their characters — intending for this to be the maiden entry. That deal has since fallen through, leaving Bloodshot yet another orphaned story meant for more.
Diesel has created his own trio of superheroic personas that all headline ongoing cinematic sagas. Riddick, Toretto and Cage have each been written about extensively in our series thus far — as have a few of his failed attempts at finding new outlets to express his genre fantasies. (The Last Witch Hunter and Babylon A.D. come to mind as two of the worst.) Bloodshot is not as bad as some of Diesel’s other outings, but it’s thunderingly mediocre. It’s PG-13 to a fault, cutting away at any moment where it might have been interesting. In 2018, Venom was a mid-budget superhero movie that succeeded thanks to the charisma of its leading man, which is never a Diesel film’s strong suit. Earlier that same year, Upgrade, starring Logan Marshall-Green (aka “not Tom Hardy”), told a similar cyberpunk body-alteration story but with much more emphasis on gore and horror. Either of these films, relative quality aside, is more memorable than Bloodshot.
The sole redeeming quality here is Pearce’s barely-there turn as the villainous Harting. He’s the sort of bad guy who stands around in one room for most of the movie barking orders and acting sassy. His robot arm never does as much as you’d like it to, but his grey temples (Mister Fantastic, please), do all the work and then some. Harting’s character is essentially the same as Pearce’s previous comic book supervillain Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3 but less fun. Pearce modulates his vamping to match the relative talent of his heroic rival. Before, he had Robert Downey Jr. as a contender. Here, Diesel’s hero has both the complexion and charisma of a cement block. Not much to play against.
Every action sequence is soundstage-bound and mercilessly dull, just motionless chaos. There are definite parallels to last year’s schlock masterpiece Serenity, too.
And yet – and yet.
Bloodshot was released the same weekend that our current pandemic started closing down movie theaters. It’s a casualty of the cultural moment. Not that it would’ve ever made much money anyway. Who really cares about Valiant besides a very small number of very engaged comic-book fans (of which I am one)? Nobody.
Still, thanks to the new world order, Bloodshot was made available for VOD at the ownership price of $20 just two weeks after its original release date. I proudly purchased it (albeit with a $5 coupon). It stars two actors I enjoy when they’re great and also when they aren’t — as they are here. I’ll likely watch it again someday. I miss my movie friends, and this is precisely the kind of shit I’d have enjoyed watching with them.