Cast: Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Andrew Koji, Brian Tyree Henry, and Hiroyuki Sanada
David Leitch is the filmmaker
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (out of 5)
Even if the voyage on the Bullet Train with Brad Pitt is chaotic and disorganized, there are some enjoyable moments. This bursting-at-the-seams action comedy leans heavily on its star to carry it ahead with its enormous helpings of thrills and inconsistent humor. The franticly paced film has some movement that is not always going in the correct direction.
The movie hardly permits itself to slow down, even when it is in danger of going off the tracks. It is laced with short, incomplete flashbacks intended to piece together the back stories of the colorful and dangerous men and women who unleash mayhem on a Tokyo-to-Kyoto shinkansen – “bullet train”-
The film’s bewildering pace, which is at its pulpy core, is obviously intended to hide the numerous problems it has. The production relies on formulaic methods to generate huge, brassy action, riding on the shoulders of a star wanting to reinvent himself for the next stage of his career. As a result, there are obvious gaps in the script that are unavoidable.
No matter what the writer Zak Olkewicz and filmmaker David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) do, the flaws in Bullet Train are obvious. The movie is consistently vibrant and full of energy, but it lacks a strong narrative and has trouble coming together as a whole from its various parts.
Bullet Train makes changes to both the characters and the plot specifics that made Kotaro Isako’s Japanese novel Maria Beetle a twisting, darkly humorous story. Many of the main characters in the movie are made white, which would have made more sense if the action had taken place in an American city. Because it doesn’t, the actioner’s sparse treatment of Japanese faces is offensive and infuriating.
The main character, a reluctant, unlucky hitman, and a ragtag group of other murderers board the fast train in search of distinct objectives but, as it turns out, are related to each other’s throats.
Actor Brad Pitt plays the hitman known only as Ladybug. He believes the nickname will put a stop to his string of misfortune and failed missions. But that isn’t his only issue; the man has also lost the desire to commit violent crimes after discovering the advantages of seeking both inner and external calm.
He is persuaded to accept the relatively simple snatch-and-grab task of removing a briefcase off the bullet train by his manager Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock, who speaks instructions mostly in the protagonist’s earpiece). Maria Beetle doesn’t exactly turn to Ladybug for advice. The handler is forced to turn to Ladybug because her first-choice operative is sick with a stomach illness.
Ladybug barely manages to get on the train without a gun when he realizes that there are numerous other assassins on board with similar goals but different motivations. An extremely deadly snake that was taken from a zoo is loose on the bullet train and poses a serious threat to the passengers in addition to the risks they pose to Ladybug.
Logan Lerman, a brutal crime lord, has his son abducted, and two mismatched British assassins named Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) are on the train to defend him and make sure the briefcase doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
Tangerine, haughty and cold-hearted, and Lemon, whose work ethics and opinions of others are based on teachings he has learned from a children’s television program, are opposites in terms of temperament and looks. They identify as the Twins.
They have a past with Ladybug, and they would really like to get rid of him. Pitt takes great pleasure in portraying the Zen-like Ladybug’s eerie restraint as he goes about his business. He is an action hero who has mastered the art of accepting setbacks with grace and is eager to allow the rest of the world to do the same.
The violence on screen is excessive and merciless, even if it is more in the style of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino than Takashi Miike and Takeshi Kitano. In Bullet Train, Prince—a young man in the book—is played by Joey King, a girl whose good fortune never fails her and who poses as a naive, schoolgirl-like damsel in distress. She uses ruthlessly self-serving and despicable methods to lure a Japanese hitman named Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji) on the train as part of her own objective. As the train speeds toward a point of no return, a number of additionally trained killers materialize one after another.
The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), Yuichi’s father; Wolf (Bad Bunny), a Mexican thug out to avenge his boss’s murder at a wedding feast; and Hornet (Zazie Beetz), who is also smitten with Ladybug. The yakuza ruler White Death, who has given Tangerine and Lemon a task and continuously sends his men to keep track of their progress, is the link that connects all the assassins on the bullet train.
Tangerine once told Lemon to shoot first, then look for the solutions. That seems to be the movie’s guiding principle. It moves at a breakneck pace and makes use of clumsy witticisms about chance, peace, and the futility of fury. Naturally, most of these lines are saved for Brad Pitt, who delivers them with overt joy. But that scarcely suffices to keep the action from veering off course.
While the hero appears to be having a great time, Bullet Train’s breathless action and garish color scheme prevent it from ever being a consistently engrossing action film.
When confronted with two White men posing as The Twins, a Japanese mobster attempts to counteract the whitewashing of the characters with one throwaway remark. That sounds a lot like what foreigners who visit Japan could say when they can’t tell one local man from another. The momentary shift in attention is insufficient to make up for White/Black celebrities assuming roles that rightfully belonged to Japanese performers.
Bullet Train has plenty of forwarding motion. Consistency is something that it quickly runs out of. Brad Pitt does not have enough support from the screenplay, despite his best efforts, to perform a miracle and keep the trip from coming to a halt.