Bullet Train – Film Review

Bullet Train – Film Review
by Fran Winston

Directed by: David Leitch
Starring: Brad Pitt. Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Sandra Bullock

In cinemas on August 3rd

Seemingly hitmen are like buses – you wait for ages and then three or four come along at the same time! That’s the basic premise of this action thriller, which is based on the 2010 Japanese novel written by Kōtarō Isaka and translated to English by Sam Malissa in 2021.

Pitt plays Ladybug, a seasoned assassin having an existential crisis who agrees to take on a simple ‘snatch and grab’ job for his handler following months of therapy sessions. All he must do is lift a case containing $10 million dollars from a Bullet Train and then disembark when it stops at the next station. However, this simple task becomes more complex when he realises that he is not the only “professional” on board. And he has history with most of his fellow hitmen! Things get even more complicated when the motley crew realise that their missions are interconnected and that working together may be the only way to survive until the end of the line.

Leith’s directorial influences are glaring. There are more than a few shades of Tarantino, early Guy Richie and even some Edgar Wright in there. It is one thing to pay homage to someone’s style but completely another to blatantly copy it. Obviously, as the title suggests the setting is rather claustrophobic. However, the constant flashbacks, which serve to expand the world of the story, become distracting and annoying and many of them are very unnecessary.

Pitt is wryly charming as Ladybug. He embraces the absurdity of it all and runs with it, but the story doesn’t have enough depth to maintain two hours of his dry wit. Taylor-Johnson and Tyree Henry have great chemistry as “twins” and assassins Tangerine and Lemon, but they are written as caricatures and no amount of chemistry can save that. Meanwhile, the token female King (yes there are other women in this but she is the only one with any significant screen time) seems to relish playing a baddie, but her gender-swapped role (her character is male in the book) doesn’t really allow for feminine nuance. It is as if they just changed the name and costume and didn’t think beyond that.

This is basically a live-action cartoon and two hours of pure escapism. It runs out of track pretty early on but maintains just enough pace to keep you watching (if only to see how they tie up all the threads). It never feels original, but it is a great popcorn movie that is instantly forgettable once you leave the cinema.

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2 replies »

  1. I turned my brain off and it was a good ride for me. My wife liked it as well. We both agreed it would have made more sense to take 20 minutes or so out of the film and “tighten it up” a bit. If you are going to go bonkers, anything-goes, total chaos…you might as well cut the movie that way throughout once the character exposition is over. I do get why some are not going to like this movie. These kind of movies “land” on people in different ways. Made me think of the Kingsman: Secret Service and Golden Circle movies…people will probably either love or hate this film.

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