Starring Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Brian Tyree Henry
“You put peace out into the world, and you get it back,” is one of the first things Ladybug (Brad Pitt) says in this film. Pitt makes a true statement here, but it’s not where director David Leitch heads with “Bullet Train.” Leitch (“Deadpool 2,” “Atomic Blonde”) integrates the energy and action of a Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie movie into the structure of a full-throttle Asian action movie. Not only does Leitch use techniques from the directors mentioned above, but he also uses actors from some of their films, including “Deadpool.” Action scenes and continuous contextual flashbacks create a structure reminiscent of “Kill Bill.” While “Bullet Train” veers more towards comedy, it’s not without ridiculous stylized violence.
Ladybug (Pitt) is a hitman filling in for the top assassin at his agency. Despite his line of work, Ladybug’s lifestyle is peaceful and Zen. According to his handler, the first job back is an easy snatch-and-grab operation on a Tokyo bullet train. After boarding and noticing rival killers onboard, he realizes this is no easy job. Each passenger he recognizes has a connection to White Death (Shannon), the most feared criminal in the world. Hitman brothers Lemon (Henry) and Tangerine (Johnson), who have White Death’s son on the train, lose a valuable briefcase to the friendly Ladybug. As the train speeds far past where Ladybug intended to depart, more assassins board the train, and the plot thickens.
Brad Pitt reminds us that Tom Cruise isn’t the only action movie hero left of their generation in this, his first full-length role since becoming an Oscar winner.
“Bullet Train” functions very much like any long trip. The initial excitement of boarding a luxury train, the amenities onboard, and the stunning views eventually become tedious. The film’s first half finds creativity exploding from every corner, especially with the interactions between Pitt, Johnson, and Henry. The fresh, new narrative and snappy dialogue wane as the film progresses. The briefcase swapping and the excuses used to keep characters on the train seem to drag on. Eventually, you realize those sequences are just there to deliver you to the next action scene. Lately, action films have thrown “less is more” out the window, and this one is no exception. Here we get numerous mediocre sequences rather than a handful of superior ones.
Around the 90 min mark and throughout the remainder of the film, “Bullet Train,” evidently aware of its attention span issue, introduces high-profile cameos to spice things up. Brad Pitt reminds us that Tom Cruise isn’t the only action movie hero left of their generation in this, his first full-length role since becoming an Oscar winner. Pitt’s charisma and charm balance many of “Bullet Train’s” deficiencies. It’s the same goofball antics he has relied on in films like “The Mexican,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” and “Snatch.” Not to be outdone, the statuesque Johnson (“Nocturnal Animals”) is also one of the films acting and visually appealing highlights. While this train doesn’t arrive with the same promise it had at its departure, this animated theme park-like flick sends out the 2022 summer movie season with a bang.
Final Thought – Tarantino’s narrative structure, Guy Ritchie’s sarcasm, and the violence of a Deadpool movie are all aboard.