Film Review: Brad Pitt makes 'Bullet Train' worth the ride

The action thriller goes full throttle on style and gun fights



Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt in a scene from Bullet Train.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt in a scene from Bullet Train.
by

Ambica Sachin

Published: Wed 3 Aug 2022, 7:05 PM

Last updated: Fri 5 Aug 2022, 1:07 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 that accompanies the harrowing ride to make the trip worthwhile. 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. The Hollywood star's charisma, we are glad to report, 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 Pitt playing a reluctant hit man codenamed Ladybird, entrusted with the task of retrieving a briefcase (TUMI branding done well) stuffed with cash, 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. As the movie's tag line so 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 bickering ‘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 Bullet Train from being a blingy vacuous ‘Shoot first and come up with the answers later’ kind of movie.

Brian Tyree Henry and Brad Pitt in a scene from 'Bullet Train.'
Brian Tyree Henry and Brad Pitt in a scene from 'Bullet Train.'

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 hit man 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 enough 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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