The word ‘cliché’ originally referred to a printer’s plate that could be used to make multiple copies of a text or image, but as early as the 1860s it had acquired its figurative sense of meaning a hackneyed idea or expression. Respected French novelist Gustave Flaubert was a collector of clichés. His debut novel Madame Bovary is peppered with them, set out in italics to make sure even a casual reader can’t miss them. His intention was to satirise the lazy thinking of the bourgeoisie, but he also understood that by repeating and highlighting the absurdity of clichés he could polish them from trite, unthinking waffle into little comic gems.
It’s unlikely that the Vin Diesel-led superhero blockbuster Bloodshot will ever be regarded in the same critical light as Madame Bovary, but they both operate by hammering you with clichés until you can’t help but laugh. You’ve heard the expression ‘a little on the nose’? Bloodshot is a movie that punches you on the nose again and again until you’re beaten into submission.
Adapted from the 1990s comic book series by Marvel rival Vaunt, Bloodshot opens with a shoot-out in Mombasa, where a soldier named Ray Garrison (our hero Vinny) kicks terrorist ass in perfunctory style. He returns home to the Amalfi Coast, where he’s reunited with saintly wife Gina (Westworld‘s Talulah Riley) in a sports car that weaves along the same picturesque coastlines we’ve seen in a million other idealised movie scenes. But then – oh no! – it emerges he’s been trailed home by one of the villains (Toby Kebbell, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), who we know is a psycho killer because before murdering Ray and Gina he performs a dance routine to Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’. See what we mean about ‘on the nose’?
Ray’s death is short-lived. Before long he’s brought back to life by a team of scientists (led by an enjoyably campy Guy Pearce) who replace his blood with microscopic robot ‘nanites’ that can, among other things, heal any wound in an instant. Ray is now effectively indestructible, and can also apparently connect to WiFi in his head. This comes in handy when he immediately sets off to take vengeance on the man who killed him and his lovely wife – but when he returns, we learn that all is not what it seems.
The joy of Bloodshot isn’t found in the plot, but in the way it layers on all the tropes that make brainless action moves so much fun, calling attention by breaking the fourth wall with frequent Deadpool-style asides. while retaining the thinnest of fourth walls. It’s not going to trouble the Oscars, but did you really expect it to? You know what you’re being served here. Want to see Vin Diesel punch people to smithereens in slow motion? Check. Want to see Outlander‘s Sam Heughan walk away from an explosion while casually pointing at it without looking back? Check. Want chase scenes with plenty of cutting away to distressed cops crashing their cars? Check, check, check.
Bloodshot is a very silly film that’s redeemed by knowing exactly how silly it is. Likewise, it’s hard to hate a film that includes a dick joke which takes 20 minutes to pay off. There’s an old writing joke that one should avoid clichés – avoid them like the plague. Bloodshot doesn’t need to avoid clichés for the same reason our titular hero doesn’t need to avoid bullets. He’s just built that way.
- Director: Dave Wilson
- Starring: Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Sam Heughan
- Release date: March 11