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Bloodshot: Vin Diesel shoot-'em-up, streaming now, doesn't get blood pumping

Review: Vin Diesel's a super-soldier built from nanotechnology and cliches in this pretty but hackneyed comic book adaptation, streaming now.

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Vin Diesel brings comic book hero Bloodshot to the big screen.

Sony

It's that old story: Boy meets girl, girl gets killed, boy becomes enhanced super-soldier out for revenge. New comic book adaptation Bloodshot taps into a rich vein of sci-fi shoot-'em-up action -- but even with Vin Diesel aboard it never gets the pulse racing.

Following its theatrical release, Bloodshot is one of several recent blockbusters coming to streaming earlier than expected due to the coronavirus pandemic. You can watch it online now -- probably fitting for a movie that has direct-to-video written all over it.

Diesel plays special forces tough nut Ray Garrison, who returns from a mission shooting generic foreigners to find his blissful reunion with his wife interrupted by a vicious killer. Garrison is transformed by an infusion of nanotechnology to become a kind of steroidal Robocop, his quest for revenge powered by billions of tiny machines pootling around in his bloodstream.

The deliciously icky concept is ripe for striking visual flourishes, like when Diesel has half his face blasted off only for the billowing gore to reform and reattach itself. Moments like this, when the film displays flashes of novel and cool stuff, show off what makes Bloodshot unique. 

Sadly, there isn't enough of that uniqueness, especially in filler fight scenes that are sludgy and one-note. Much of the time, Diesel is just wading through faceless henchmen who don't pose any threat, in fights that could be lifted from any of the muscleman's other films. It doesn't help that the Fast and the Furious star seems to be on half speed for extended periods of the film.

The villains are also never a match for this enhanced Diesel. Guy Pearce tries hard as an exasperated tech genius type, but his witless underlings are neither tough enough nor interesting enough to conjure a genuine sense of menace.

The plot also moves on the rails you'd expect from any old direct-to-video sci-fi punch-up. A knowing twist turns an almost aggressively hackneyed opening on its head, but the film seems content to pile on even more hoary old clichés instead of embracing what's innovative about the concept. It's not half as entertainingly bonkers as similar movies like Upgrade and Hardcore Henry, for example. 

And while we're at it, someone should've told the filmmakers that having your characters self-consciously point out every cliché doesn't magically erase the fact your film is full of clichés.

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Bloodshot does often look nice, even if the story ain't pretty.

Sony

On top of that is an array of inexplicable accents. Lamorne Morris, who's actually American, does a British accent, while Toby Kebbell, who actually is British, does an Australian accent, while Guy Pearce, who actually is Australian, tries his hand at what can only be described as an accent. I want to say... Irish?

On the plus side, Bloodshot does frequently look great. Director Dave Wilson comes from a visual effects background, while cinematographer Jacques Jouffret worked on several Transformers movies and borrows from Michael Bay's sunset-drenched playbook of striking images. This is the type of movie where a woman pops a flare for no apparent reason and then we get an eternity of her just walking amid the billowing smoke. It makes no sense, but it sure looks nice.

The real elephant in the theater is, of course, that Bloodshot arrived just as the global coronavirus pandemic closed movie houses. It didn't really fit the big screen anyway, which doesn't exactly bode well for the new cinematic universe based on Valiant comic books that was supposed to follow this film. But Bloodshot puts so little effort into showing any of the world outside the nanotech lab that it probably won't matter.

Bloodshot could've been bloody good fun, but its heart isn't in it.