Film Review - Bullet Train
This image shows Bryan Tyree Henry, left, and Brad Pitt in a scene from "Bullet Train." Photo: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures via AP
entertainment

Review: 'Bullet Train' goes off the rails, but Pitt doesn't

27 Comments
By JAKE COYLE

Aboard the speeding locomotive of “Bullet Train” ride at least five assassins, one venomous reptile (a snake on the train), countless glib Guy Ritchie-esque slo-mo action sequences, and one bucket-hat wearing Brad Pitt.

It's a lot of ingredients that go into this candy-colored, battle royale of a movie. But the only one that really matters is that last one. At 58, Pitt's star power has never seemed so easy and so natural. Radiant in “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood,” delicious in “The Lost City," Pitt glides into “Bullet Train” in a rarified state of cruise control. Seldom has a movie star seemed to be having so much fun.

In “Bullet Train,” which opens in theaters Friday, Pitt plays a hired gun by profession but little else. His code name is Ladybug. He doesn't like guns. And in his first job back after a hiatus of self-reflection and therapy, he goes into lethal fights with great reluctance, spouting self-help slogans like “Hurt people hurt people" in the midst of hand-to-hand combat. Pitt, a maximum movie star with a minimalist bent, is a hitman with no taste for hitting.

Ladybug, tasked to grab a very particular briefcase off a train headed from Tokyo to Kyoto, might not be up for the job, but the bigger question is whether “Bullet Train" is a good enough vehicle for its biggest star. Director David Leitch, the stuntman-turned-director of “Atomic Blonde” and “Deadpool 2,” has brought the style and energy of a “John Wick” film (he co-directed the first) to a setting that has traditionally been associated with more subtle methods of killing.

But with films like Bong Joon Ho's “Snowpiercer” and the Liam Neeson-led “The Commuter" greasing the wheels, train movies have chugged along since the original “Murder on the Orient Express.” Adapted from Kotaro Isaka’s pulpy novel, “MariaBeetle," “Bullet Train” amps the carnage further and shifts the action to Japan.

But the location here is mostly just a neon-lit stage for a high-speed melee with an international ensemble, including Brian Tyree Henry (best of the bunch) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as bickering British “twins"; Andrew Koji as a Japanese assassin; a Mexican cartel veteran named the Wolf (Benito A. Martinez Ocasio, a.k.a. Bad Bunny); a dangerous young woman called Prince who fake cries her way out of nearly everything (Joey King); and Zazie Beetz's killer known as the Hornet.

All are on the train for various criminal reasons ultimately connected to a Russian kingpin named the White Death. The actor playing this most fearsome character is best left to the third-act reveal, but that's just one way “Bullet Train” plays around with star persona. There's a cameo that answers Pitt's in “The Lost City.” Another “Lost City” star, Sandra Bullock, is mostly only heard on the other end of a phone line, as Ladybug's handler.

The copious flashbacks and quirky banter (Henry's character has an outlook based around Thomas the Tank Engine) that accompany the juggling of all these characters in between bloody encounters is a familiar kind of framework recalling a long line of Quentin Tarantino knockoffs. In “Bullet Train,” a movie that proudly opts for style over substance, characters are introduced like videogame fighters, running gags get run into the ground and a winking irreverence lands somewhere in between playful and exhausting.

It's no train wreck. Leitch's film is colorful, cartoonish and well-choreographed. But the more-is-more manic energy of “Bullet Train" eventually peters out, since that's all the movie was ever running on. Well, that and Pitt. His charm alone does wonders for the movie, raising it at least to the level of watchable. When, in the finale, Ladybug sails comically unharmed through the wreckage, it captures the situation exactly. “Bullet Train” might go off the rails but Pitt remains bulletproof.

"Bullet Train,” a Columbia Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality. Running time: 126 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


27 Comments
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0 ( +9 / -9 )

Bullet Train sequel: "Green Car".

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Definitely will go see it.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Bullet Train sequel: "Green Car".

I'd much prefer a sequel called: "Wan-man"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Sounds absolutely terrible.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

No doubt this will inspire another group of foreigners rushing to Japan to see something that just does not exist. Must like the anime and otaku who think that Akihabara is some cosplay/anime heaven!

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Occasionally there is a good, worth-watching, American film but from the description this does not sound like one of them.

Ladybug, tasked to grab a very particular briefcase off a train headed from Tokyo to Kyoto

The main picture at the top isn't even a "bullet train".

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I hope the third installment is chinchin densha.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Movies? So 2000.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

The shot in this article is not from a Japanese shinkansen train. It's a set, and a very bad one. A bit of googling might have made it more accurate.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

No doubt this will inspire another group of foreigners rushing to Japan to see something that just does not exist. Must like the anime and otaku who think that Akihabara is some cosplay/anime heaven!

FFS it's just a movie to be enjoyed. You purchase a ticket, buy some popcorn, get a beverage, sit down and watch the movie (don't wait until the end of the credits), and be on your way. Other than that, no one is going to take this movie seriously and if they do, then they need serious help.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Culver City is not in Japan.

mostly shot on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, with some killer production design and a cool train courtesy of David Scheunemann, it undoubtedly feels like we are in Tokyo.

The Bullet Train will be leaving from platform 19 if you can get past the border guards.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

You'll get all this action for free on any night train that passes through Blacktown, Sydney,

One can also join in the violence for free.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Only foreigners call it the Bullet Train.

Probably every American train is one of those.

Guess it is more appealing than calling the movie "Shinkansen?"

or maybe

"Killer Shinkansen".

Will the movie affect the image?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Why would anybody want to pay to see this movie?

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Think the writer likes Brad?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Sounds like someone’s got a thing for Mr Pitt.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Better to watch the 1975 Japanese movie also titled Bullet Train.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

some sequels or spin-offs worth making: "Chikan - Groping Royale", "Man-in Densha Fantasies" xD

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I bet these two titles would be more than popular here in Japan lol

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Goofy Brad Pitt is best Brad Pitt.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A lot of angst over a movie the angsters haven't seen.

Usually better to give an authoritative review of things like a book after reading it or music after listening to it or a game after playing it or food after eating it ....or a movie after watching it.

Usually.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The copious flashbacks and quirky banter (Henry's character has an outlook based around Thomas the Tank Engine) that accompany the juggling of all these characters in between bloody encounters is a familiar kind of framework recalling a long line of Quentin Tarantino knockoffs.

looks good. in a Gunpowder Milkshake kind of way – recent, modern but also respectful of its “origins”, the obvious Japanese influences from the 70,s and 80,s / slash / Tarantino; that’s enough for me. :) didn’t ask it to be the best movie of the 21st century, just wanna be entertained; ( we have fights, Japan, more fights, Hiroyuki Sanada, some Japanese-Americans, (did I mention “fights”?), and these two: Brad Pitt and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (what a combination btw) ) – looks entertaining to me. :)

No doubt this will inspire another group of foreigners rushing to Japan to see something that just does not exist. Must like the anime and otaku who think that Akihabara is some cosplay/anime heaven!

… it’s just a movie(!) chill.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Too much violence in movies these days.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Probably every American train is one of those.

Not at all actually.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Looks like a complete train wreck of a movie. You'd have to pay me to see it, and generously too.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Trailer looked ok. Yes glitz and lots of cut scene action and so on. Still better than all the prequels/sequels/spinoffs.

And Brad Pitt is a commanding screen presence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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