August 5, 2022 / Sony Pictures Canada
Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Bad Bunny, and Sandra Bullock
Directed By: David Leitch
Five assassins aboard a swiftly-moving bullet train find out that their missions have something in common.
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
Bullet Train is a ridiculous, silly and over the top action flick that features some strong action sequences from director David Leitch, but is mainly held together by Brad Pitt being Brad Pitt.
David Leitch made himself a name with the John Wick films, and ever since then he has delivered action spectacles, which alone was enough for me to be excited to check out his latest film which features Brad Pitt’s return to the action genre. While many film goers have loved Leitch’s previous films, mainly the John Wick series, I have been less enthused by Leitch’s original action films as I find the story to be too simplistic for their own good. His films have succeeded for me when they are part of a larger franchise, as seen with Deadpool 2 and Hobbs & Shaw, and now he tries his hand at adapting a novel.
The film’s story has a simple setup, with Brad Pitt’s Ladybug being assigned to retrieve a briefcase from a train traveling through Japan. But what is meant to be a quick and simple snatch and grab, Ladybug quickly finds himself in the middle of a larger conspiracy as it turns out numerous assassins are also on the train trying to retrieve the briefcase and will stop at nothing to do so. There is nothing wrong with a simple setup to an action film, in fact they can be a strength of the film if there is enough story to fill a two hour run time and deliver great action sequences. But the screenplay for Bullet Train turns the first half of the film into a never ending exposition dump, setting up numerous characters and plot lines, with little payoff for this setup as half of the characters are killed off within minutes of being introduced. The exposition dumps limit the length of the fight sequences in the first half of the film, making them fast and furious, lasting only a minute or two, before turning back to the constant story developments.
Luckily, the film finds its footing in the second half, where it is freed from the exposition dumps and has the space for its action sequences to be fully developed. They are long, exciting, and brutally gory, creating some truly great popcorn moments that makes this a fun summer blockbuster. Leitch’s direction brings the action sequences to life like very few directors can, utilizing both the R rating of the film to create some truly outrageously bloody moments and a large budget to create a spectacle that should be experienced on the big screen. Sure, some of the sequences are absolutely absurd and are cheapened by some poorly timed comedy,but it's a fun and quick ride that is easy to enjoy if you sit back and turn off your brain.
Though, the film would be nothing without Pitt’s lead performance. Pitt always lights up the screen with his energy and Brad Pitt charm, and that is exactly what he does in this film. While he always seems to play the same character, Pitt has perfected his personna over the years and he gives his fans exactly what they want in this performance. He is stellar in the action sequences, incredibly goofy and delivering some laugh out loud moments, reminding us why he is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
The entire supporting cast seems to be having a great time in the film, playing their quirky characters and interacting with Pitt. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry were a lot of fun as Tangerine and Lemon, two assassins tasked with delivering the briefcase and the son of an infamous assassin to his father. While the script sometimes fails them and provides them with jokes that fall flat, but the majority of the script serves them up with some excellent moments that allows them to create a wildly entertaining banter between them. Taylor-Johnson is also great opposite Pitt, with the two of them crafting some truly hilarious and exciting action sequences. The film does drop the ball with Joey King, Zazie Beetz, Logan Lerman and Michael Shannon, who are given virtually nothing to work with nor much screen time to create a memorable character.
But, it is Sandra Bullock who steals the spotlight of the supporting cast as Pitt’s handler. While we don’t see Bullock on screen until the final scene of the film, her interactions with Pitt are truly electric. I can’t see Lady Gaga in the role, who was originally cast before she had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by Bullock, as there is a dry playfulness that Bullock brings to the role that only she possesses. It creates a great dynamic between her and Pitt as they verbally joust for the entire film, building off the great energy they established on screen earlier this year in The Lost City. Together, Pitt and Bullock steal the show, even with Bullock merely being a voice present throughout the film. Plus, there are some great cameos in this film that make for some truly hilarious moments.
There is no denying that there are flaws to Bullet Train, mainly in its story that nearly flies off the rails, but at the same time it can be a lot of fun if you don’t mind some excessive gore and are able to sit back and just enjoy the ride. Brad Pitt truly shines in David Leitch’s action extravaganza that makes Bullet Train the epitome of a summer action blockbuster, even if the screenplay makes the first half tough to sit through before the film becomes the fun ride it needed to be from the get go.