A group of assassins take the same train to Kyoto… What do you think will happen?
David Leitch, director of “Deadpool 2” and “Atomic Blonde” tackles the high-energy and elaborate woven story from Kōtarō Isaka’s novel “Maria Beetle,” which was recently translated into English as “Bullet Train.” Interlacing the encounters of various hitmen, unknowingly on related missions, this story twists and turns on you before you even had a chance to get settled into your seat. While the movie attempts to have heart, any semblance of substance seems relatively lackluster and gets lost between the comedic fight scenes; but, despite this, with its heavy stylization and upbeat tone, “Bullet Train” entertains.
One standout aspect of this film is the delightful ensemble work and performances from the cast. Led by reformed assassin turned journal-loving and peace-abiding mission man, Brad Pitt stars as the not-so-lucky Ladybug. What is supposed to be a quick grab-and-go with a briefcase, turns into a turbulent journey when Ladybug runs into some old enemies. The shining duo of “Bullet Train” has to be the “twins” Lemon (Brian Tyre Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The prominent actors work well together as a pair, their charisma bouncing back and forth through a tennis match of wits. Despite the levity and humor they bring, there is a depth to their relationship. Family is a key component of the movie, opening with Kimura (Andrew Koji) staying by his son’s hospital bed. After a tragic “accident” where Kimura’s son was pushed off a roof, Kimura is brought to the train to discover who did it. When his father, The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada) gets involved later in the plot, the generational father-son relationships are put in place to tug at the audience’s heartstrings, until another fight scene comes along. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Joey King, Bad Bunny, Sanda Bullock, Zazie Beetz and Logan Lerman. There are even stacked cameos including Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds.
What seems to be the driving force for the movie is its humor. While it doesn’t always work, the variety of comedy in the film from physical, situational, and downright goofy moments add to the overall amusement. Additionally, the script spends a lot of time explaining people and places, going back with equally high-energy flashbacks as the present, so the humor as the tie between these things is what helps “Bullet Train ” from falling flat. That, and the stacked soundtrack with Avu-chan’s “Stayin’ Alive,” Alejandro Sanz’s “La Despedida,” Shuggie Otis’ “Sweet Thang” Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki” and much more.
Overall, “Bullet Train” seems to fit as the perfectly palatable summer blockbuster to bring in a large audience. With the grandiose nature of the CGI, the fight scenes, and the overall production value of the film it could be argued that this is the type of movie you need to see on the big screen in an actual theater, and this is not a wrong idea. While this movie, and other movies in the “White-man comedy full of action and blood and guts” realm, might not have that much substance or be very revolutionary, they do seem to get people to go out and actually see them at the movie theaters. Now more than ever this is something that we definitely need. Between streaming taking over and a global pandemic, the movie theater industry was knocked down. If “Bullet Train” or other brightly colored, violent and star-studded movies are what bring people back to the theaters then that’s a good thing.
“Bullet Train” is now showing in theaters.