TThere are plenty of big, dumb action movies here that can deliver thrills without taxing the brain too much. And then there are the movies that are so thunderously stupid that they bypass the guilty pleasure state and end up as a danger to themselves and everyone around them. Bullet train falls in the last field. He’s such a jerk that you wouldn’t trust him to cross the road unsupervised, let alone negotiate Japan’s Shinkansen high-speed rail network.
The premise, adapted from the 2010 novel by Kōtarō Isaka, is simple: Brad Pitt plays a privately hired agent, codenamed Ladybug, who is hired by unknown clients to execute various shady missions. These could involve assassinations, but since he’s re-entering the murky waters of mercenaries after a period of soul-searching and therapy, his first gig is theoretically easy. He just has to steal a silver briefcase on a bullet train headed for Kyoto. But Ladybug is cursed with horrible luck. And it turns out the entire train is packed with hitmen, extravagantly armed with guns, swords, grudges, and an array of toxins, all of whom seem intent on stabbing each other in the face.
Key among the cast is a British duo with an almost brotherly bond: Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). Taylor-Johnson is a well-dressed old man who looks, both in this brash and hollow film, as if he might have been transplanted from the obnoxious character of Matthew Vaughn. king Serie. Henry, meanwhile, is saddled with the role of ungrateful idiot savant. Lemon is obsessed with, I kid you not, the children’s book series. Thomas the Tank Engine, and claims that it provides a model by which to read the fundamental traits of a person. Thus, a Henry is essentially decent, but a Diesel is nefarious and slippery. As expected, the cast of Bullet train leans toward the diesel end of the spectrum.
Also on board is a schoolgirl who calls herself Prince (Joey King), who may be the innocent bystander she claims to be. But like previous Japanese-set action movies, particularly Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1Schoolgirls, we’ve been taught, can rarely be trusted. She is the only female character featured: it all happens when a disposable plastic water bottle has more backstory than the other women in the film.
Monumentally silly as it is, it’s not just the stupid plot that sends this picture into fool’s corner. Other equally grim films are redeemed by their action sequences. And director David Leitch, the man behind high-octane stabathons like Atomic Blonde, certainly knows his way around a fight sequence. But the trick of the movie, the train setting, is also a problem. A clever hand-to-hand battle on public transport can be a real beauty – just watch the bus footage on No one Y Shang Chi Y the legend of the ten rings for two recent examples. But yes everybody the combat choreography is contained within the metal tube of a train car, it soon starts to get a bit repetitive, no matter how many samurai swords and venomous snakes you throw into the mix.
But there is another issue: the tone. Bullet train he is infuriatingly pleased with himself. And ground zero of this self-satisfied implosion is Pitt. There is a school of thought that holds that Pitt is the saving grace of the film. Certainly, he is one of the most likeable elements. He plays his character as an affable golden retriever who has swallowed a self-help manual, sporadically coughing up half-chewed personal growth advice. But he is also, in many ways, to blame for this mess. Pitt’s celebrity is the burden that propelled the project forward in the first place; His involvement is presumably why no one demanded a rewrite, or at least a tighter edit, to hit the emergency brakes and avert inevitable disaster.