REVIEW — “Bullet Train”
When an unlucky hitman (Brad Pitt) fills-in for a job to retrieve a mysterious briefcase on board Tokyo’s Nippon Speed Line, he unknowingly enters a deadly Bullet Train that’s about to go off the rails.
Codenamed “Ladybug” by his handler Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock), Pitt’s character is a reformed-assassin who would rather talk out his conflicts than engage in a gunfight or fisticuffs. He has found inner-peace and is a well of zen-like, spiritual mantras: “You put peace out, you get peace back.” However, he can’t escape his past and keeps being reminded that “hurt people hurt people.”
As he showed in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Pitt still packs a punch. In fact, he performed 95% of his own stunts in Bullet Train. Directed by David Leitch (Deadpool 2, John Wick), the film has wall-to-wall action featuring top-notch, creative, and hilarious fight scenes with a cast of deadly characters.
You see, there are multiple hitmen (and hitwomen) on board the train in pursuit of the briefcase and/or personal revenge. Among them are Joey King as “The Prince,” Bad Bunny as “The Wolf,” Andrew Koji as “The Father,” Hiroyuki Sanada as “The Elder,” and Zazie Beetz as “The Hornet.” But how do you cast Suicide Squad and The Boys’ Karen Fukuhara in an action film and not have her throw a punch? Missed opportunity, I guess.
Anyway, the scene-stealers and, in my opinion, stars of the film are British hitmen brothers “Tangerine” (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and “Lemon” (Brian Tyree Henry). Both ATJ and BTH get about as much screen time as Pitt and provide some of the film’s biggest laughs and heart. The citrusy killer duo would be perfect for a lower-budget, Guy Ritchie-style, street-level spin-off prequel.
As the madcap action barrels toward Kyoto station, Ladybug encounters multiple threats including a poisonous Boomslang snake, a large pink Momomon character, and The White Death (an intensely scary Michael Shannon) waiting at the end of the line. While Bullet Train is an action-packed, wild ride featuring brutal fight-scenes played with Looney Tunes-style hilarity, the film devolves into a literal CGI train wreck in the third act. However, after such a fun journey, it’s hard to look away from the dizzying green-screen of it all.
Ultimately, Bullet Train is a mixed bag of Brad Pitt’s greatest hits. With witty cockney banter, multiple gun-toting baddies with conflicting agendas, some surprising and welcomed cameos, and dynamic, bare-knuckle fight choreography, Bullet Train is a high-speed Fight Club/Snatch on a train with a The Lost City reunion thrown on top thanks to Channing Tatum: the king of homoerotic cameos (see This Is The End and Free Guy).
Rated R with a running time of 2 hours, 6 minutes, Bullet Train opens in theaters August 9, 2022.