BULLET TRAIN (2022)
Release Date: 08/05/22 [Cinemas]
Studio: Sony Pictures
"Five assassins aboard a fast moving bullet train find out their missions have something in common."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
David Leitch's latest action blockbuster struggles to match the acclamation of its inspirations.
A somewhat disappointing hybrid product that seems inspired to be Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels by way of Bad Times at the El Royale.
For a film that takes place on a bullet train or a "Shinkansen" as it's referred to in Japan, a high-speed train that operates on Japan’s high-speed railway network, Bullet Train takes a long time to reach its final destination. When the film isn’t bogged down by its exposition-heavy narrative structure, or its whiplash-inducing gratuitous flashback sequences, is when it's at its peak excitement.
Brad Pitt as "Ladybug", a "snatch and grab guy" as he refers to himself at one point later in the film, systematically carries the movie with his effortless charm, easy going personality, and humor. Simply put he dazzles in every scene, so much so that it feels as if he’s daring you to try to not have as good of a time as clearly he's having on screen in this role. While Pitt is no doubt the ultimate good time of Bullet Train, he has reliable help from the duo of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry playing the assassin brothers "Tangerine" and "Lemon". The chemistry between Taylor-Johnson and Henry on screen is a delight and highlight of the film as they bicker, joke, and bond during Bullet Trains' runtime. Of course, the film's action beats and set pieces are central to its function, considering its plot involves a bunch of hitmen on a train together. The fight choreography is well done, no surprise given the talent involved. Leitch and his team deliver some genuinely cool set pieces and thrilling action beats confidently.
While all of that is fun and entertaining ingredients, Bullet Train then determines that to make sense of its story and characters' motives, it needs to come to a halt at several stops to deliver flashback sequences or exposition before continuing at high speed again. These moments are where you can feel the film's mediocre script issues that fatten up what wanted to be a lean, adrenaline-fueled storyline. Written by Zak Olkewicz, based on the book MariaBeetle by Kotaro Isaka. I have not read the book so I can't speak to how faithful Olkewicz's screenplay is, but a story involving several hitmen on a high-speed railway train in Japan I would imagine it involves more characters that are of Japanese origin. While this isn't the film's biggest story issue it gave me pause. One of the biggest issues is one I have already pointed out, flashbacks. It's not that Bullet Train didn't need to have any, particularly, a few are key for its characters, it's that it doesn't need to have as many as it does. The result of this is not only unimpactful, but it's also inessential. As there are more than a few borderline inconsequential characters that are meant to feel important through this structure only to realize how dispensable they are within seconds or mere minutes of being introduced. When the movie isn't distracted from providing exposition or flashbacks, it decides to add some further pizazz by throwing in a handful of cameos from famous actors. Yet, almost all of these moments are derivative. Essentially, David Leitch and co. are serving audiences the most obvious eye wink and thumbs up moments in an effort to make sure you're having a blast, but cramming these cameos in is more distracting and forced feeling to the narrative of the film, than valuable. The last issue that Bullet Train fails to avoid is the inclusion of a threatening and compelling villain. The villain, referred to as "White Death" is hinted at through flashback glimpses throughout and is infamous with all the hitmen involved. The third act's reveal of who "White Death" is, is a good one, but that's about the only interesting detail about the character. His entrance to the final act alone and motivations revealed come across more so as a bit lackluster than satisfying.
At 2-hours and 6-minutes, Bullet Train could have benefitted by optimizing its course to ensure the quickest and most efficient route. Instead it hastily opts for the slower option. With more stops along the way, leaving you comfortably content but a little frustrated when you consider how much quicker and efficient the direct path would have been. David Leitchs' Bullet Train wants to be a high-octane-fueled joyride, packed with its criminal underworld set of characters; however it's ultimately not able to stay on the rails.