Every hero needs a motivation. Revenge tends to be the driving force in most of them. Bruce Wayne lost his parents to the corrupt city streets of Gotham. Frank Castle lost his family to the organized greed of gangsters. Hellboy punches monsters in the face because it’s easier than taking a crack at the demon in the mirror. Bloodshot would have you believe that the only thing preventing a solider from being the perfect killing machine is incentivizing anger to propel them into the battlefield day after day.
Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) awakens in his body to discover that millions of little mechanical friends have joined him inside his massive frame. Rising Spirit Technologies (R.S.T. for short) and Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) have yanked him from the grave and given him new life via nanite technology. He was a badass before, but now he can self-repair instantaneously, smash through concrete as if it were sand, and communicate with their big brain laboratory server.
Slight problem. Garrison is consumed with rage for the man who murdered his wife (Talulah Riley). He can’t be bothered with whatever R.S.T. would have him do until he’s uncovered the rock in which that scumbag is hidden and beat him with it. The soldier escapes his facility, tracks down the baddie, obliterates his henchman, and puts a few bullets in his dome. Now what?
Turns out, that’s not such a problem. Along with the nanites comes a narrative written specifically with the intention to get Garrison’s blood boiling. Dr. Harting has a lot of loose threads he needs cutting. Garrison is his puppet, and by stimulating his hate, he can aim the beast at whatever target he so wishes. Killing the competition with the product they so desperately desire.
Dr. Harting is a script doctor as much as he is anything else. He knows how these movies go. He knows every comic book flick demands a villain. Why not make the three-act structure work for him? He orders his programmer lackeys to pull from the cliches of cinema, and attempts to subvert the audience’s concerns regarding an overly familiar plot. You’ve seen it all before. As long as the action keeps rocking and rolling, don’t worry about it.
Wrath and heroics go hand in hand in American cinema. Kill a puppy, and that’s enough motivation to fuel three films of righteous carnage. Kill an imaginary wife? Yeah, that’s good for at least one entry, but is that enough to build an entire franchise, let alone a Valiant Comics universe around?
Along comes another smart guy to mess it all up. When Wilfred Wiggens (Lamorne Morris) disrupts Garrison’s programming via an electromagnetic pulse, he unleashes the dog from his master. Garrison sees the strings. To sever them, all that is required is the complete annihilation of Dr. Harting. To accomplish such a feat, he must tear his way through his squad of slightly-less enhanced goons.
The brawl takes a lot out of Garrison. Literally. With the “Overclock Warning” blaring from every computer screen, Garrison expends nearly all of his nanites to reach his showdown with Dr. Harting. The little robots in his blood can only do so much to repair the infinite intake of bullets and chopping of limbs.
By the time he comes face to face with Harting, a mere two percent of nanites remain in his system. Dr. Harting is aghast at his persistence. Garrison is a fool. All that is left in this fight is his pathetic human body. “That’s all I need,” Garrison mumbles as he drops an explosive device at their feet. BOOM! The two men are incinerated. End of movie.
Um. Not quite.
Garrison may have expunged all of his nanites, but they found their way back again. The reconstruction happened offscreen, but clearly, it did happen. Piece by piece, molecule by molecule, Humpty Dumpty was put back together again.
The final shot of the film sees Garrison behind the wheel of a truck. K.T. (Eiza González), the assassin with a heart of gold, who found compassion for Robo-Garrison when others saw merely meat for the grinder, sits like a replacement girlfriend in the passenger seat. Wiggens spouts frustrated one-liners from the back of the trailer they’re hauling and seemingly shouts his disgust directly at the audience when the film dares to climax with them riding into a painted sunset. All is right in the world. Fin.
Is he free from rage? He’s got a smile on his face, but the nanites still beat within his blood. They were hacked before. Who’s to say that they can’t be hacked again, or that the life he’s living now is more real than the fake origin story that sparked this whole endeavor?
Bloodshot concludes, and we’re left to believe Garrison is in full control. While the credits hit, you might expect the film to drop a surprise or two. Garrison could easily be lying on a laboratory shelf somewhere. Dr. Harting could be alive and well and chuckling to the rhythm of his villainy. No such luck. The credits roll, and then they end.
The film acknowledges its cliches but never has the sense to play with them. Garrison takes his revelations with ease. His wife is not dead, and, in fact, she’s not his wife. He copes with the disappointment by sticking to the script. His story is revenge. He finally gets his own rather than the one manufactured by Dr. Harting. We’re meant to cheer.
The narrator is reliable. Where is the fun in that? Nowhere.
We’re also left to wonder where Bloodshot can go from here? His enemies are vanquished. His life is tidy, serene, and filled with comrades. Your desire for a sequel rests exclusively on the appeal of Vin Diesel. If you want him to keep doing more of the same, then you’ll shell for it. If a second film were to appear, it would have to do the same amount of heavy lifting that this first film’s script did. As is, Bloodshot is a closed circle.