Director David Leitch
Screenplay Zak Olkewicz based on Maria Beetle by Kōtarō Isaka
Starring Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Sandra Bullock
Bullet Train is perhaps the most fun you will have dodging blood splatter this summer. The story centers loosely around Pitt as Ladybug, a hit man in the process of reforming his life after a brush with death. He replaces another hit man who is out sick. The job is a simple grab and go of a briefcase on the titular Bullet Train. Anyone who has watched a movie knows nothing will ever be simple in a film with espionage, assassinations and trains.
On the train are a smattering of other assassins who are there to do a variety of tasks. They’re all connected, and before one has too much time to wonder how, the film goes to great lengths to prevent that exercise of thought. Two of these Lemon and Tangerine (Henry and Taylor-Johnson) are also known as the twins. The chemistry these brothers exhibit is one of the film’s primary drivers. If we don’t buy them, the film is lost. They’re great: nearly worth the price of admission between the two. Suffice to say, one will never think of Thomas the Tank Engine‘s Diesel character the same way.
Another cog is The Prince (King), who has her own reasons for being there. She has a clear genius for hurting people to get her way. King exhibits more skill than ever in presenting the devil in an innocent girl’s outfit. What a gem.
Pitt, though, is the one taking the biggest chance here. Coming off of the best role of his career in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the pressure to even pretend to try topping that must be immense. His mantra stating, wisdom seeking hippy routine might annoy some, but it worked for this viewer. His ability to fight while trying to avoid violence is delightful. This is no doubt due in part to the kinetic direction of Leitch, one of the directors of the John Wick series.
There are several gimmicks happening throughout the film. In some hands, it could be a cloying disaster. Leitch continually pushes the film forward at the rate of the incredible train they’re on while holding the convenient narrative structure in place. There are so many excellent fight sequences the whole last act comes as a complete suprise. Every time you think you’ve seen the climax, another one follows that is even more extravagant.
Bullet Train is so much fun in so many directions, I will need to see it again. There are so many familiar faces, you’d be tempted to make guesses on who goes next. You’d be wrong. There are several predictable events that don’t end up happening the way one would expect, but when it happens, only half of these events will end predictably.
If you don’t like blood, skip it. There’s no shortage here. The kills are so creative, it’s hard to feel repulsed as much as fascinated. Bullet Train works extremely hard to be so much fun.
(**** out of *****)