Bullet Train Plot
Some assassins are just plain unlucky, and then there’s Ladybug (Brad Pitt). After a short hiatus from the spy life in order to find spiritual enlightenment, Ladybug is getting back in the game with a very simple snatch and grab job. The job in question? Board a bullet train and find a single silver suitcase with the sticker of a train on the handle, get that suitcase off the train and the job is over. Seems simple enough at first, until Ladybug tries to leave the train and runs into The Wolf (Benito A Martínez Ocasio), an assassin who is seeking his revenge for the death of his wife.
This little bit of revenge-seeking by The Wolf forces Ladybug to stay on the bullet train, a train where it turns out there might be a few other assassins on board after that suitcase, including the twins Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), a young girl known simply as Prince (Joey King) and the poison loving queen assassin Hornet (Zazie Beetz). Maybe if Ladybug can reverse his bad luck, he can somehow survive the bullet train trip all the way to Kyoto… or one of the many assassins who want that briefcase will find him and kill him, you never know.
Bullet Train Review
Bullet Train starts with a bang and doesn’t stop, from the glorious opening shot until the very last explosion this is a film that’s doing everything that it can in order to put on one hell of a show just for you. To describe this film as over the top would be an understatement, everything here is done to excess. The violence is gloriously violent and fast-paced with the camera quick cutting around the limited space in each car on the titular bullet train that has to fit massive fist fights, potentially lethal gunplay or elaborate swordfights depending on the scene. It’s almost a constant barrage of action scenes that are performed around quick witty banter that flows between the main characters with ease… basically, the director of Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw and Atomic Blonde is doing more of the things that made those movies stand out.
Those scenes of over-the-top action are held together by a plot that’s admittedly a little hard to follow at times, thanks to the film bouncing around the timeline any time it chooses, but if you pay attention, you’ll get this glorious farce of a scenario. It can go from genuinely intense fights between our Ladybug and The Wolf who are genuinely trying hard as they can to kill each other, to a comedic battle between Ladybug and Lemon who are trying to fight while in a quiet car being shushed by an old woman. That blend of intense action scenes and comedic battles helps keep things interesting and gives the film a pulse that carries it through the moments when the story might not.
Where Bullet Train really excels is in the casting, even though this cast could be accused of whitewashing (the original author of the book argues his characters are “ethnically malleable” and doesn’t mind, but it is still kinda wild that a film set in Japan has a mostly American/British cast) they’re also just firing on all cylinders. Pitt is bringing that sense of casual coolness that he’s kind of been bringing to a lot of his recent work, Joey King is delightful as a mini-Karen who alternates between scheming and scared, Brian Tyree Henry manages to make ‘grown adult obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine’ something that not only works but it’s charming as hell and Aaron Taylor Johnson just doesn’t let go of the scene any time he’s in it, he’s stealing it and there’s nothing anyone can do.
The emotional core of Bullet Train is easily being carried by Andrew Koji who plays a man whose son was pushed from a building (part of an elaborate ruse to get him on the train) and any scene with him in it is where Bullet Train is going to do its best to pull out some serious emotion out of the audience. Admittedly it doesn’t do this often (kind of hard to pivot to serious emotion between scenes involving an assassin in a mascot outfit) but when it does, it really creates some genuinely great moments by Koji.
Now there are times that that lack of seriousness might normally be a problem, and admittedly it can make for occasional tonal whiplash when this fun action comedy decides to make us worry about if a small child will be murdered for no reason, but Bullet Train is kind of happy to just embrace being as elaborate as it can be from the fast editing, shots that fly around to impossible places and constantly ratcheting up the extremity of the fights until things just go off the rails and the film takes everything to cartoon levels. Basically don’t go into this film expecting realism, you’re not going to find it here.
Bullet Train Overall
Bullet Train isn’t trying to do anything fancy, it’s a big bombastic action comedy with performances that are pushing for the joke at all times and only breaking the comedy when they really want you to enjoy the elaborate fight scenes they made these actors do. It’s big and loud and silly and just a whole lot of fun, with a killer soundtrack, a few hilarious cameos that feel like Brad Pitt getting some favours returned and more than a few genuinely shocking moments and this is just a genuinely enjoyable film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s having fun and that fun is infectious as hell.