Film Review: Brad Pitt shines bright in the ‘Bullet Train’ to mayhem – News

The action thriller proves all fight and not much substance

Published: Wed 3 Aug 2022, 7:05 PM

For a Bullet Train hurtling from Tokyo to Kyoto at breakneck speed with five deadly assassins onboard, there’s hardly any sense of terror or breathlessness that accompanies the harrowing ride to justify the title. Credit to the high tech Japanese rail system perhaps?

But then right from the onset the artifice of the entire premise is laid bare and to be fair we jump onboard giddily beckoned by the ever charming golden haired Brad Pitt, whose charisma can’t be hidden under the bucket hat and black rimmed glasses which he endearingly puts on to read the fine print.

There’s nothing like a middle aged gun-shy assassin who loves to spout philosophical one-liners and breathe in and breathe out during trying moments to headline an action thriller, is there?

Based on Maria Beetle, the 2010 novel by Japanese author Kotaro Isaka, the action-comedy sees Brad Pitt playing a reluctant hitman codenamed Ladybird who is entrusted with the task of retrieving a briefcase (TUMI branding done well) off the high-speed train.

Little does he know he is merely part of destiny’s play with the strings manipulated by a mysterious puppet master (Michael Shannon) as the train with four other deadly assassins onboard glides towards the climax where as the tag line aptly puts it; The end of the line is just the beginning.

Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson pull off a twin act in Bullet Train

Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson pull off a twin act in Bullet Train

Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson enjoy a lot of screen time courtesy their ‘British twin’ act, as Lemon and Tangerine and the former’s childlike obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine is all over the place. Though for an action movie where the proceedings sizzle during the high octane, heavily stylised fight sequences, the tendency to fixate on the British humour can be a bit tiresome.

Joey King (The Kissing Booth) as the psychopathic co-passenger with daddy issues is stellar. The movie has been accused of cultural misappropriation even before its release, but Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat) and Andrew Koji (Warrior, Snake Eyes) do a decent enough job to make a case for representation.

Hiroyuki Sanada does a stellar job in Bullet Train

Hiroyuki Sanada does a stellar job in Bullet Train

Puerto Rican rapper Baby Bunny adds to the diversity with his stylish appearance as the Wolf and showcases his heft in one of the film’s most well choreographed action sequences.

At times all the verbosity can be extremely yawn inducing, like a persistently annoying co-passenger who insists on regaling you with their personal history when all you want to do is bury your head in an action thriller.

Midway through the ride, there are even moments when you seriously wish you could hop off the train. As if to circumvent this, stuntman-turned-director David Leitch peppers the proceedings with a series of high profile cameos that will have you sit up for a bit only to sink back into your seats when the action goes south.

Bullet Train’s USP could have been its originality (despite being based on a bestselling Japanese novel there is still that element of exotic novelty) except for its heavy Guy Ritchie-meets-Quentin Tarantino vibe.

But as if to elevate it from mere bullets and fistfights territory, Leitch (Deadpool 2) and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz weighs it down with existential questions about the role of luck/destiny in one’s life. Like a central character says; “If you do not control fate, fate will control you.”

But all this doesn’t help save this from being a blingy vacuous ‘Shoot first and come up with the answers later’ kind of movie.

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Bryan Tyree Henry, left, and Brad Pitt in a scene from 'Bullet Train.' (Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures via AP)

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Bryan Tyree Henry, left, and Brad Pitt in a scene from “Bullet Train.” (Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures via AP)

Whatever complaints you may have about Bullet Train – it is sluggish, talk-heavy – one thing can’t be denied. And that is Brad Pitt’s magnetism.

The Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood actor’s turn as an unlucky, gun shy hitman who glibly mouths lines like – ‘Karma is a b***h’, or a smug ‘Let this be a lesson in the toxicity of anger’ to his embittered co-passengers is classic old school Hollywood appeal at its best.

But would that be reason alone to hop onboard the Bullet Train?

Bullet Train

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Joey King,

Rating: 2.5 out of 4

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