Bullet Train is a hilarious action comedy packed with amusing characters, exciting battle choreography, and (on rare occasions) shockingly genuine emotion. This is Bullet Train Reviews and Movie Summary.
“Bullet Train” is an action picture that looks and feels like it might have been an animated feature. The tale is set on a bullet train racing across Japan, however, the majority of the film was shot on green-screened sets.
The cityscapes and countrysides that the train passes through are mostly miniatures and CGI. Its characters are also a little abstract and consciously comic-bookish. All are either hired killers or similarly violent persons associated with the criminal underworld.
The majority either have grudges against one of the other characters or are the target of a grudge and seek to avoid the repercussions of past acts.
They have tragic-sentimental backstories or are purely malevolent—and inevitably, 30 years after Tarantino’s great realignment of the early 1990s, most of them are chatterboxes who will monologue at anyone who doesn’t point a gun at their head and order them to shut up, and the tone mixes winking black comedy and poker-faced pulp.
Brad Pitt plays Ladybug, a former assassin who is told to board a train, grab a briefcase, and then flee. He’s filling in for another assassin who dropped out at the last minute, and he ignores his handler’s advice to carry a pistol because he’s recently finished anger treatment and has renounced murdering.
Ladybug’s co-killers are a motley group of violent outcasts. Joey King plays “The Prince,” an innocent teenager horrified by men’s violence who soon exposes herself to be a cunning and deadly destroyer.
Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (dressed to look like the evil drunk Begbie from the original “Trainspotting”) are brothers who have gone from mission to mission, racking up a body count that appears to be in the triple digits.
Now find themselves on the train protecting the briefcase and escorting the depressed twentysomething wastrel son (Logan Lerman) of a terrifying crime boss known as the White Death.
The White Death is a Russian who has taken control of a Yakuza family. His face isn’t shown until the end of the narrative (the audience has more fun resisting Googling who plays him because his casting is one of the finest surprises in the entire affair).
Hiroyuki Sanada plays “The Elder,” a greying but still dangerous assassin linked to the White Death, and Andrew Koji plays “The Father”—obviously The Elder’s son; they’re out for vengeance after someone shoved The Elder’s grandson over a department store roof, placing him in a coma. They suspect the perpetrator is aboard the train, mixing with the other agents of death.
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The story appears to be goal-driven at first, focusing on the comatose grandchild and the metal suitcase. However, as the script adds new fighters to the mix and establishes that they’re all tangentially connected, “Bullet Train” morphs into a half-assed.
But sincere statements on fate, luck, and karma—and Ladybug’s constant (and often hilariously annoying) comments on those subjects, voiced in discussions through a handler (Sandra Bullock’s Maria Beetle, heard via earpiece), start to feel like an instruction manual for (Ladybug is sort of a post-credits Jules from “Pulp Fiction,” but he’s still stuck in the life, which has grown more difficult because he’s decided never to pick up a gun again.)
Characters are introduced in the typeface-on-screen-followed-by-flashback-montage style that genre aficionados will remember from Quentin Tarantino (“Kill Bill” appears to be the main influence) and Guy Ritchie (who pioneered a particular brand of “lad action” in which verbal insults become little fists and knives deployed against enemies).
The warriors engage in combat with weapons, knives, fists, and whatever else they can get their hands on (the briefcase gets a workout as both a defensive weapon and a bludgeon).
They chat while they suffer, and when one of them dies, the tone shifts to a maudlin lament that is frequently moving due to the cast’s ability, but it doesn’t inspire real feeling since the rest of the film is so facile and shallow.
The film is directed by David Leitch, a former stunt coordinator and screen double for Jean-Claude Van Damme and this film’s lead, Brad Pitt, as well as Chad Stahleski’s former directorial partner (of the “John Wick” series). After directing “Deadpool 2,” “Atomic Blonde,”.
“Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw,” he’s become an expert in high-grade acrobatic mayhem. It’s difficult to deny that he’s one of the finest at supervising this sort of production—and it’s fun to witness “Bullet Train” lean into its intentionally ludicrous graphics, which occasionally border on the psychedelia conjured up by “Speed Racer.”
But whether this sort of undertaking is totally worthwhile is another question. It seemed to want to have it both ways, telling us “this is all light and stupid and none of it matters” while yet attempting to hit us across the neck with a dramatic power moment so that we cry for the characters.
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The love expressed between the brothers even when they’re breaking each other’s chops gets Henry and Taylor-story Johnson’s there, and the performances of the two actors have a direct connection with the audience despite boasting Cockney accents that might not pass muster in a college production of “My Fair Lady.”
” (The film’s biggest triumph is Henry’s ability to take his character’s constant comparison of everyone else to Thomas the Tank Engine characters and have you not dislike the gimmick on principle.)
The rest, on the other hand, feels forced and fake. “Bullet Train” is at its best when it’s a comedy about self-proclaimed badasses who believe they’re free agents but are actually simply passengers on a train that rockets from station to station, indifferent to the wants of any individual riding on it. The abstractness and “it’s all a lark” humor finally obliterate any component that may otherwise embed itself in the consciousness of the observer.
In another regard, the project is abstract: the script is based on a Japanese novel by Ktar Isaka, and the characters are Japanese. Leitch and crew have recast the story “internationally,” beginning with Leitch’s longstanding screen collaborator Pitt, who inherited the idea from Antoine Fuqua, who intended to make a less jokey “Die Hard on a Train”-type film.
They apparently contemplated moving the narrative to Europe but chose to keep it in Japan nevertheless, arguing that “Bullet Train” is a fantasy picture that could be set anywhere and is essentially taking place nowhere.
The explanation doesn’t hold water, given how reliant “Bullet Train” is on Japanese signifiers and cultural attitudes (King’s character is essentially an anime “schoolgirl” avatar come to life)—not to mention deracinating all of the core characters except for a handful of stereotypical Yakuza, who have been given a Russian chieftain modeled after Keyser Söze from “The Usual Suspects.” Even in a dream, the latter seems a reach, despite the fact that the performers all sell it like experts.
If nothing in the film is real—either as a rationale for the casting or as a guiding aesthetic—why not go full “Speed Racer” or “The Matrix” with it, owning the green screens of the entire production, and setting it in the future on another planet, or in an alternative dimension?
It’s almost a Marvel superhero movie, only the characters can’t be brought back to life after being killed off. Instead of a technically and logistically demanding film that leaves little emotional or intellectual imprint, the outcome could have been a delirious work of art.
Now playing in theaters.