Bullet Train – Film Review

Director: David Leitch

Writer: Zak Olkewicz

Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki, Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito Ocasio, and Sandra Bullock

Rating: ★★★★

The latest film from director David Leitch (who previously directed Deadpool 2, John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Hobbs & Shaw) is Bullet Train, an adaptation of the Japanese novel Maria Beetle by Kōtarō Isaka. It’s a high-octane action film that blends together Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, and doesn’t slow down at all. Once the train has left the station, it’s full steam ahead.

Brad Pitt starts as Ladybug, a hired killer, who’s returning to work with an easy mission. He needs to get on the bullet train leaving Tokyo for Kyoto, take a briefcase and get off at the next stop. Simple, right? No, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. There are other assassins on the train on different, but strangely connected jobs, and everyone starts getting in the way.

Bullet Train is completely over-the-top and silly in the best way possible. Form Ladybug not liking guns and trying to leave a more peaceful life, despite his line of work, to the great and energetic fight sequences, it’s pure entertainment. The film doesn’t slow down once for it’s entire two hour runtime, instead constantly ramping up the action in more and more crazy ways. When the adaptation was first being worked on it was going to be a more serious action film, but instead the comedy was ramped up, and it’s all the better for it.

There is a great set of characters in the film, that makes this instantly engaging. Every one of them is a villain, and have their own distinct personalities, so everyone has someone to root for. There’s a more sympathetic character, Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji) a low level gang member who is only on the train to find the person who pushed his son off a building. Prince (Joey King), who just wants to be the protagonist in her own story. Brad Pitt is absolutely great in the central role, being completely charming and convincing as the lovable rogue. There’s also a few cameos that add to the excitement, popping up throughout. The characters are so well created, fleshed out with their own backstories that are told through flashbacks. Each character receives a splashy name card when they first appear, making this feel like something out of a comic-book which matches the action sequences.

There’s a pair of assassins, Lemon (Bryan Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who have been sent to rescue White Death’s (Michael Shannon) son. Lemon is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, seeing it as a way to interpret the world around him and labelling everyone as the characters from the children’s show, while Tangerine comes is a cocky assassin who thinks he’s one of the greats when he clearly isn’t. They’re one of the highlights of the film, with great presence and delivering some of the funniest lines.

Everything in the film is connected to an extreme level. Nothing is wasted on screen, from the news broadcast telling a snake has been stolen, or the mascot that keeps on appearing, right through to a water bottle getting its own flashback sequence. Everything has a reason to be there on the train, and if something gets any focus at all it will become important later. It’s all part of the stylishness of the storytelling, where the whole story is wrapped up nicely within itself with a nice little bow on top.

The action is slick, with some great choreography and close-up fights. There’s also some pretty brutal kills, with people being sliced up, shot, and even poisoned. Likewise, the comedy is funny and isn’t over relied on. It’s completely style over substance with its ridiculous contrivance of everything being connected, flashy action and a silly bunch of characters, but it all comes together to make an entertaining thrill-ride. Braindead fun that makes for a perfect evening.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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2 Responses to Bullet Train – Film Review

  1. I turned my brain off and it was a good ride for me. My wife liked it as well. We both agreed it would have made more sense to take 20 minutes or so out of the film and “tighten it up” a bit. If you are going to bonkers, anything-goes, total chaos…you might as well cut the movie that way throughout once the character exposition is over. I do get why some folks are not going to like this movie. These kind of movies “land” on people in different ways. Made me think of the Kingsman: Secret Service and Golden Circle movies…you’ll either love or hate this movie. I loved it aside from the running time.

    Liked by 1 person

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