Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr As superhero movies continue to dominate popular culture and more and more studios attempt to kick-start their own cinematic universes, it may feel like the comics industry has already been sucked dry of its best ideas. Bloodshot, the first of a planned series of films based the Valiant Comics brand, plumbs new depths by bringing to life a very strange, very specific kind of ‘90s superhero story. The film’s execution leaves a little to be desired, but it’s such a ridiculous and ambitious prospect, that it’s hard not to love it. Coming into the film with no knowledge of the source material and only seeing the less spoiler-y trailers, one could be forgiven for assuming the Vin Diesel starring flick was little more than lowest common denominator IP flung at a wall, hoping to stick. The film’s first twenty or so minutes does little to undercut this expectation, presenting a narrative so obvious and so blatantly echoing a Jerry Bruckheimer action aesthetic as to feel like parody. Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a nondescript but root-for-able soldier whose wife is murdered before his very eyes by, of all possible villains, Toby Kebbel in flip-flops while “Psycho Killer” plays. He’s brought back to life by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), a tech genius who graduated from making prosthetics to making super-soldiers. He’s taken Garrison, a once dead amnesiac, and replaced his blood with advanced nanites that make him indestructible. Well, they make him more than indestructible. Bloodshot is one of many overpowered ‘90s comic creations whose abilities all read like they were scrawled by a teenager into a marble composition book. He’s super strong, has an innate healing ability, but also can use his own blood to like, hack into the internet and teach himself how to fly a plane? That Garrison is joined by other souped-up warriors in Harting’s employ (among them a blind man who sees through cameras implanted on his body) is such an effective and unapologetic distillation of every post-Image Comics funnybook this side of Rob Liefeld’s “Youngblood.” But Garrison gets his memories back and strikes out on his own to get revenge and the movie seems content, if momentarily, to be a middling Liam Neeson thriller grafted to early ‘00s action style. Once he gets his all-too-quick catharsis, the rug is pulled out from under the audience, revealing that Garrison is just a pawn for Harting, and they’ve been sending him on missions by wiping his memory and reprogramming the film’s origin story with different targets as his wife’s murderer. That’s right. In addition to being Captain America/Blade/Neo from The Matrix and literally Vin Diesel, Bloodshot is also the protagonist of Memento. If it feels one leap too many for a film that winds up shorter than two hours, that’s only because the script (from Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer) doesn’t time out or game the twists in a structurally satisfying way. There’s a video game-y vibe to both the film’s special effects and its approach to screen craft, which fits given director David S.F. Wilson’s background. All of these disparate elements thrown together with some intermittently inspired action choreography means Bloodshot is, for the most part, exactly the kind of genre mish-mash Vin Diesel is always trying to develop in between Fast films. But there’s two elements that give the film some legs. Firstly, there’s an impactful symmetry in Garrison’s past as a soldier and the disillusionment of his current predicament, being sent off on passionate revenge arcs at the behest of manipulative money men. Whether or not the filmmakers are actively trying to gussy up their insane comic book movie with surreptitious Iraq War commentary is up for debate, but it’s the way this thread is visually realized that’s key. The filmmakers frame Harting’s operation and the particular way he crafts Garrison’s gaslighting with the cinematic grammar of a behind-the-scenes featurette for a tentpole franchise film. When his men scrub the fabricated memory and replace details and punch up background elements, it may as well look like they’re using Da Vinci Resolve. It puts the usual Hollywood criticisms of war directly in line with the industry’s own love of profiting off the military industrial complex by regurgitating those same images for summer fun. Sure, it doesn’t all hang together or stick the landing the way one might hope, but it’s incredible a movie as over-the-top and potentially misguided as Bloodshot made it to the dance with this much thorny baggage intact. Whether or not it’ll be a hit remains to be seen, but it provides hope that if the Valiant cinematic universe makes it beyond this first entry, we’re more than likely in line for even weirder and messier experiments than this one.