Bullet Train Movie Review

“Bullet Train” takes audiences on a wild and exhilarating journey aboard a high-speed train hurtling through Japan. Directed by David Leitch, known for his expertise in crafting high-octane action spectacles, the film boasts an ensemble cast led by Brad Pitt. 

With its comic book-inspired characters, stunning visuals, and a mix of black comedy and pulp, “Bullet Train” aims to deliver a thrilling and entertaining experience. 

While the movie embraces its absurdity and packs in plenty of action, it falls short when it comes to leaving a lasting emotional impact.

An Animated Vibe and Eccentric Characters

“Bullet Train” exudes an animated movie’s aesthetic, with most scenes shot on green-screened sets and miniature and CGI landscapes serving as the backdrop for the train’s journey. 

The characters themselves possess a touch of abstraction, fitting the knowingly comic-bookish world they inhabit. They are primarily a group of paid killers and individuals connected to the criminal underworld, each carrying grudges or attempting to escape the consequences of their past actions. 

Tragic backstories and malevolent intentions shape their identities, and the film often finds them engaging in monologues while navigating the train’s dangers.

Brad Pitt as Ladybug and the Eccentric Ensemble

Brad Pitt shines as Ladybug, a former assassin reluctantly thrown into a dangerous mission. Replacing another assassin on board, Ladybug’s sole objective is to steal a briefcase and disembark the train. 

Refusing to carry a gun due to his recent anger management efforts and renouncement of violence, Pitt’s character adds depth and complexity to the film. 

Alongside him, the ensemble cast includes Joey King as the clever and ruthless Prince, Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as brothers with an impressive body count, and Logan Lerman as the depressed son of a formidable crime boss known as the White Death.

A Twisted Tale of Fate, Luck, and Karma

Initially, “Bullet Train” appears to revolve around the comatose grandson and the enigmatic metal briefcase. 

However, as the plot progresses, the film delves into a half-assed yet sincere exploration of fate, luck, and karma. Ladybug’s frequent and often humorous reflections on these themes, voiced through his handler Maria Beetle (played by Sandra Bullock), serve as an instruction manual for deciphering the movie’s underlying intentions. 

While Ladybug’s character resonates as a post-credits Jules from “Pulp Fiction,” having sworn off violence but unable to escape his past, the film’s tonal shifts between winking comedy and dramatic moments of power can be jarring.

Tarantino and Ritchie Influences

“Bullet Train” pays homage to directors like Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, with its characters introduced through stylized onscreen typefaces followed by flashback montages. 

The fighters engage in intense combat, utilizing guns, blades, fists, and any object within reach. The banter-filled struggle creates moments of levity amidst the action. However, the film’s tendency to shift into maudlin lamentations upon a character’s death can feel disconnected from the overall glib and superficial tone.

David Leitch’s Expertise and Visual Spectacle

As a former stunt coordinator and double for action stars, David Leitch’s expertise shines in “Bullet Train.” His experience directing films like “Deadpool 2” and “Atomic Blonde” is evident in the meticulously choreographed action sequences. 

The film embraces its most outlandish visuals, bordering on “Speed Racer” psychedelia, delivering a visually striking experience. Leitch’s direction captures the audience’s attention and keeps them on the edge of their seats, relishing the spectacle.

A Question of Cultural Appropriation

One of the film’s more contentious aspects is its international casting and the relocation of a Japanese story to a global setting. Despite maintaining the Japanese setting, the decision to cast non-Japanese actors and deracinate the core characters raises questions of cultural appropriation. 

While the film argues that it can be set anywhere and nowhere, it heavily relies on Japanese signifiers and cultural attitudes, making it a questionable approach.

A Lack of Emotional and Intellectual Impact

Despite its technical and logistical ambition, “Bullet Train” struggles to leave a significant emotional or intellectual impact. The film’s mix of comedy, action, and drama, while entertaining, dilutes the potential for a more profound exploration of its themes. 

Moments of genuine connection between characters, such as the loving bond between Henry and Taylor-Johnson’s brothers, manage to resonate. However, the film’s abstractness and emphasis on humor prevent deeper engagement.

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“Bullet Train” is a high-octane action film that embraces its absurdity and delivers an entertaining ride. With its animated visuals and comic book-inspired characters, the movie successfully captures attention. 

David Leitch’s direction ensures thrilling action sequences and stunning visual spectacle. However, the film falters when it comes to leaving a lasting emotional or intellectual impression. 

While the eccentric ensemble cast brings their characters to life, the narrative’s forced and insincere elements hinder the potential for a more profound experience. “Bullet Train” is an enjoyable rollercoaster ride but ultimately lacks the substance to make a lasting impact.

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