August 18, 2022
Bullet Train Movie Review: Brad Pitt Action Vehicle Never Really Gets You On Board

The bullet train, as the name suggests, is installed on the Japanese hyper-speed rail network, formally known as the Shinkansen. For a film, that offers two things: unmatched (narrative) speed, and a confined space that forces its characters inside a box. But to annoyance, which is partly borrowed from the 2010 Kotaro Isaka novel on which it is based, the bullet train keeps on pumping the brakes—literally and figuratively. The former occurs as the Tkaid Shinkansen makes a one-minute stopover on its journey. Rather than using these as gateways to introduce new elements (which it does just this once), these mostly derail the film. For the latter, the bullet train – in India since August 4 – regularly stops to dump itself or clue us in on relevant backstories (expositions).

If you’re going to make an all-out action movie and most of it is inside a bullet train, you have to be creative and make sure the action gets delivered. But just as he failed in Deadpool 2 (common and forgettable) and the Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw (incoherent and utterly cartoonish), Bullet Train director David Leach failed to ignite the spark here as well. There is not a single choreographed sequence in Bullet Train that will leave you stunned. It is a mixture of ideas that is often interrupted by a fellow traveler or supporting character. There are glimpses of interesting bits here and there, but they are quickly snuffed out in an effort to be quirky or funny. It’s as if Leach has learned all the wrong lessons from his time in Deadpool 2. For the win of all those movies, action was not one of them.

And while Leach had Ryan Reynolds to cover for him on Deadpool 2—some might say Shadow could take over as director—and help fuel the film’s humor, he has it here. Luxury is not. That doesn’t mean there’s no humor on the bullet train here. But much of it is like a second draft that clearly needs more polish. I mean, on one occasion, Brad Pitt cracked the super cringe “If you point a finger at me, you’ve got three back on yourself” joke. You know the script — by Jack Olkewicz (Fear Street: Part Two) — needs work if that line makes it into your movie. The two most devoted bits of humor are the therapeutic self-help talks, courtesy of Pitt, and the Thomas & Friends similes of Brian Tyree Henry. (Both have their origins in the novel.) This may sound weirdly typed, but trust me, Thomas Bites grows on you.

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Guided by his handler (Sandra Bullock) through an earpiece and armed with a fresh perspective on his therapist’s life etiquette, veteran American hitman Ladybug (Brad Pitt) boards the Shinkansen in Tokyo for his first assignment after a hiatus. . His mission is simple: steal a briefcase and get off to the next stop. But Ladybug, who believes she’s always been unlucky, knows it’s never that easy. (The element of bad luck and good fortune is woven through the film. Bullet Train uses “luck” as a clever get-out-of-jail card for plot beats more than anything else.) Exactly that. Just as he disembarks, he is charged by Mexican gangster The Wolf (Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, aka the Bad Bunny) who is on a vengeful mission of his own. But don’t pay attention. Wolf is one of the few characters that exists as an elaborate joke.

Leaving thanks to Wolf, the ladybug ends up in a swamp, after the briefcase’s previous “owners” – British assassin duo Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) – realize that it is gone. Is. The briefcase is one of two things he is believed to be escorting, along with the ex-kidnapped son of Russian-Japanese crime leader The White Death (Michael Shannon). And somewhere in the midst of these stories, there’s room on the bullet train for Prince (Joey King), a manipulative young woman posing as a British schoolgirl, for reasons not entirely clear. She wants to take revenge on The White Death. She forces Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), one of her former operators, to cooperate by threatening her hospitalized young son. (A later twist reveals how foolishly Kimura behaves.)

While the novel follows Japanese characters in Japan, the film clearly does not, as you can tell. But if you’re adapting a novel for a big Hollywood studio, your hands are more or less tied. The industry’s unwritten rules require a majority Hollywood cast and a major English-speaking film. But then why maintain the Japanese setting?

One, it doesn’t add anything to the film. The novel’s Jacobite villain is replaced by a Russian man. (I think Bullet Train understands the optics of a Japanese bigoted crook being defeated by a group of Westerners in a film set in Japan.) Also, spare a thought for the narrow worldview of the film where it takes place in Japan. But so the villain is still Russian?! Of course he’s in a film made for Americans.

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Joy King in Bullet Train
Photo Credit: Scott Garfield / Sony Pictures

And two, high-speed trains exist in Western countries. To address complaints of whiteness that Leach & Co. knew were coming when they decided to follow this path, the bullet train was cleverly designed by people from different countries (Americans in Pitt and African-Americans at Zazie Beetz). , Johnson in the British). and Henry in Black British, Bad Bunny in Mexican, Koji in Japanese, Hiroyuki Sanada and Karen Fukuhara, and Shannon and Logan Lerman in “Russian”).

But diversity doesn’t matter. Bullet Train primarily follows four American and English actors: Pitt, King, Johnson and Henry. Pitt brings a laid-back attitude to his killer that constantly puts him in conflict with the pent-up anger and fury of those around him. Henry and Johnson’s lemons and tangerines make for a fun pairing – when they’re constantly at odds, there’s also a deep bond. King is there to imitate a scared teenager and she does it well. Other than that, I wasn’t sold. It doesn’t help that his character feels tangential for the most part. And when her connection to the story is finally revealed, it descends with the sound of a stone in the ocean, as the bullet train has not bothered to commit to the ideas it seeks to explore.

Meanwhile, the two major Japanese actors – Koji and Sanada – have been cast in full theatrical roles. It’s as if Bullet Train believes actors are incapable of humor, but to me, it actually says more about the writer. They are unable to think of Japanese actors as people who can be funny. Other supporting cast members may also not be present. Karen Fukuhara (The Boys) is cornered by Zazie Beetz (The Boys).clown, Deadpool 2), Sandra Bullock has a thankless role, and Bad Bunny is brought in—for an extended cameo and given a full-blown backstory—just so the audience can laugh at her expense. Their characters have no agency, as they exist to enrich the diversity quota or to serve other primary characters.

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Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Bullet Train
Photo Credit: Scott Garfield / Sony Pictures

Bullet Train tries to make a meal of its flashback scenes – either deeply sad (oh look, there’s a young boy on a ventilator), humorous (Lemon and Keanu argue if they killed 16 or 17 people on the job) , melodramatic (a boy rises through the mafia ranks, falls in love, but then loses everything he held dear) or outright coincidence (during a wedding Ladybug crosses paths with two other killers) did). But truth be told, they lean more towards exhibition than entertainment.

These aspects are, at times, responsible for introducing Chekhov’s Guns—it sounds strange to hear that in the plural, but this is the kind of film that is a bullet train—into the broader plot. Three of them are planted throughout the movie, and you just know they have to go on at some point. But the results are either predictable, close to fraud, or overwhelming.

And in fact, some of those adjectives apply to the entire film as well. With a whitewashed and underused cast, a setting that never really justifies itself, and humor that requires more time in the oven, Bullet Train fails most of its accompaniments. And as for its primary ingredient, Leach has shown that he doesn’t know what works well for the third time in a row. (But Hollywood counts on him time and time again. He’s making another action flick called The Fall Guys With Ryan Gosling Next.) Frankly, the bullet train definitely isn’t as bad as the two. The week before is the second big action film of the summer. But even this in itself is not a good film.

Bullet Train releases on Thursday, 4 August in 2D, IMAX and 4DX. Bullet Train in India is available in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. There’s a scene during the credits – that’s all.


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