"Bullet Train" stars Brad Pitt, Joey King, Andrew Koji, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Masi Oka, Michael Shannon, Logan Lerman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Karen Fukuhara, Bad Bunny, and Sandra Bullock. Released on August 5, 2022, the film has an assassin surviving against a gang of trained killers while protecting a mysterious package.
The film is directed by David Leitch, who also directed "Atomic Blonde", "Deadpool 2", and "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw". It is based on the novel of the same name by Kōtarō Isaka. People can't seem to enjoy a relaxing trip without anything going wrong, whether it's a terrorist invasion, a tragic incident, or a bunch of assassins fighting over a suitcase. It goes to show that no one is safe in the world of Hollywood, especially when considering the action genre. But that doesn't make these scenarios less entertaining on screen, at least from the audience's perspective. As expected, the summer movie season is winding down this month, with only a few less-than-stellar films hoping to gather the remaining scraps of box office gold. But before we get to those assumed second-rate projects, we have at least one more blockbuster to watch in the last month of summer. From the looks of the talent on board, this movie seemed promising, if not exciting, compared to the upcoming ones. This is the latest film from David Leitch, who made a name for himself in the action genre thanks to his work on "John Wick" with Chad Stahelski. While Stahelski is busy handling the Keanu Reeves-led franchise, Leitch continues to set his own path regarding his directorial career. So far, he has helmed a movie similar to "John Wick" and the follow-ups from two popular franchises. All of which I really enjoyed, with "Deadpool 2" being my favorite of the three. So now he's tackling an adaptation of Isaka's Japanese novel in hopes of expanding his impressive track record. With that said, let's jump on board and see if it's a wild ride worth taking.
The story follows an assassin named Ladybug (Pitt). Yes, he's named after a harmless bug. What else were you expecting? Ladybug is a trained killer who's also surprisingly unlucky, as everything around him doesn't go exactly as he intended, even when his job is successful. As he approaches retirement, his contact and handler, Maria Beetle (Bullock), assigns Ladybug for one last mission in Tokyo. He's tasked to collect a mysterious briefcase on a bullet train scheduled to head towards Kyoto and get out. Unfortunately, his final assignment is far from a piece of cake. While on board, Ladybug encounters several more assassins riding the same bullet train, including Yuichi Kimura (Koji) and "The Prince" (King), a killer who's posing as a schoolgirl. After learning that their assignments are connected to the same case, Ladybug must survive his deadly trip and escape unharmed.
There's nothing new about people confronting each other inside a form of transportation, whether it's played for thrills, laughs, or even both. Even Liam Neeson had to fight bad people inside a train in 2018's "The Commuter". It's been done for many years, and we, the audience, couldn't get enough of them. So it's no surprise that "Bullet Train" is the latest to capture the scenario on screen. This is also another movie with one goal in mind: to deliver a fun and thrilling experience regardless of how the story turned out. If the story happens to be good, that makes it even better. Unsurprisingly, "Bullet Train" has a plot that may not reach the heights of some of Leitch's other films, but it easily compensates with a filmmaking style best described as a vibrant and ludicrous adrenaline rush.
The film's plot focuses on several different assassins, each with their own backstory. For example, Ladybug wants to leave his assassin life behind because he believes he has bad luck. However, he'll have to perform one last task to gain that freedom. This forces him to find the confidence needed to complete his job while learning about the process of fate. Then we have Kimura, a father seeking revenge against the person responsible for harming his son. It's like the movie took several plot points from the different types of thrillers, combined them into a blender, and put a gleefully dark spin on them. What I got is a beverage full of life, vibrancy, and blood that's good enough to drink. Even though the plot and characters didn't make as much of an impression as its glorified style regarding its formula, they provided a suitable amount of entertaining moments to keep me from leaving the train early. There's also a matter of its runtime, which clocks in at over two hours. It's easy to admit that it ran a bit longer than it should, but its swift pacing and action kept the film moving as fast as an actual bullet train.
The cast has a handful of recognizable and diverse celebrities getting in on the R-rated action, including Brad Pitt, Hiroyuki Sanada, and even rapper Bad Bunny. Now I did hear that the film has been criticized for whitewashing since the characters in Isaka's novel were Japanese. But based on how I researched it, the author seemed to be okay with it, so I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. Plus, they got a couple of well-known Japanese actors in the mix, so at least they did something to respect the cultural representation. Now, if all of the Japanese characters are played by American actors, then we have a problem.
Aside from that, I thought almost all of the actors were highly entertaining in their roles. Brad Pitt once again proved himself to be the best of both worlds regarding his comedic and dramatic roles, with his performance as Ladybug being an excellent example of the former. Despite his character taking a back seat from time to time, Pitt delivers a solid amount of charm and humor to make Ladybug's one-note personality enjoyable. Although, I would say that Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry were some of the best parts of the movie. They play Tangerine and Lemon, two assassin brothers also tasked with finding the suitcase. The chemistry between the two is so amusing that it's hard to believe they aren't the main characters. I won't mind seeing a spin-off involving the two if the movie does well. Andrew Koji, known for playing Storm Shadow in "Snake Eyes", was also decent in his role as Kimura. The film also has a couple of genuinely surprising cameos, but you have to watch it yourself to know who they are.
The film's style is described as a slick and violent blast of neon-filled absurdity influenced by martial arts, manga, and hitman movies. There are also some slight hints of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino thrown in there regarding the filmmaking methods. Leitch is no stranger to delivering neon-lighted and gritty backgrounds, thanks to his work on "John Wick" and "Atomic Blonde", so it's no surprise that his direction fits the film's vivid production design. More importantly, he offers a satisfying mixture of adult violence and comedy that's enough to put a smile on my face. I also can't stress this enough, but Leitch is still one of the directors worth looking out for regarding the action sequences. Each action scene is not only hard-hitting and fun but is also framed and edited reasonably well so we can see what's happening on screen. "Bullet Train" is another movie in which the action gets increasingly over-the-top as it progresses. It resembles a "Fast and Furious" film without cars. If that's what you're looking for, then you would absolutely get a kick out of this insane ride.
Overall, "Bullet Train" is a wildly ridiculous ride whose style and cast make up for some of its narrative shortcomings. Like the other action blockbusters, the movie accomplished its goal of being a consistently entertaining thrill ride that's gleefully violent and ludicrously funny. Unfortunately, it's far from the director's best work outside his "John Wick" franchise regarding its average script and characters. However, it continues to showcase Leitch's efforts in providing his unique visual flair in the action blockbuster format. With its charismatic cast, direction, and eye-catching action scenes, "Bullet Train" is a late-summer treat worthy of the big-screen treatment. This is one train ride you don't want to miss.