A cartoonishly over-the-top action movie whereṣ half a dozen assassins shoot, stab, and otherwise perforate one another’s cute little faces in pursuit of a briefcase full of cash can be pulled off on the two-hour and 15-minute bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto.
David Leitch, the director of “Atomic Blonde,” choreographed and directed a high-stakes game of hot potato in which Brad Pitt, a self-deprecating character, wears a bucket hat and oversized glasses, Brian Tyree Henry, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play rival “twin” hitmen Lemon and Tangerine, respectively, and Joey King, the wedding crasher from “The Princess,” is a cunning killer who can fake cry on
These oddball characters, along with a few others, including the Hornet (Zazie Beetz) and the Wolf (Benito A Martnez Ocasio, aka Bad Bunny), are identified by enormous on-screen labels superimposed over their flash-frozen mugs, much like Martin Scorsese or Guy Ritchie occasionally do with their ensemble casts.
A “Kill Bill” -a level mashup of martial arts, manga, and gabby hit-man-movie elements, “Bullet Train” has the same vibe as “Snatch” and wears its mainstream aesthetic on its sleeve without the vision or wit it implies.
Leitch and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz made each of these characters twice as odd as required while adapting the pulp Kotaro Isaka novel “MariaBeetle” for a predominantly Western ensemble, lest spectators’ interest waiver for a moment.
This anger management joke, which also appeared in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” is Maria, the bug in Pitt’s ear, leading the suddenly nonviolent tough guy through what is meant to be the easiest task of his career: In Tokyo, get on the bullet train, take the MacGuffin, and get off at the next station.
The choo-choo goes cha-ching. However, Ladybug (Pitt’s alter ego) is incredibly unlucky, and it seems like there are more murders here than Agatha Christie could fit on the Orient Express.
In the meanwhile, uninvolved spectators are few. After a few stops, nearly the only people still on the bus are those who would murder for that briefcase.
There is a busybody woman who constantly scolds Ladybug and Lemon when their altercation becomes too annoying. There is also a boomslang snake that is very toxic and whose venom causes victims to bleed from their eyeballs within 30 seconds, like poor Logan Lerman (the first character to bite it, serving out the remainder of the movie in floppy-corpsed “Weekend at Bernie’s” mode).
Pitt’s character, who gains possession of the bulletproof Tumi quite easily early on, is continually faced with lethal barriers in the film as part of its design. Even as the movie actually goes off the tracks in the final act, Ladybug is amazingly adept at improvising his way out of sticky situations.
Leitch didn’t come up with the concept to stage all this mayhem aboard a train, but he makes the most of that constraint by establishing aesthetically appealing set-pieces in various carriages. In the bar area, Ladybug and the Wolf engage in a knife duel. He and Tangerine later wreck the kitchen. The mascot for a nearby children’s performance, who keeps being smacked in the face, gets into some amusing situations in a neon-lit section of the train.
Given how many other inventive filmmakers are attempting to stand out in the genre, the combat scenes feel quite distinctive, which is amazing in and of itself. Leitch frequently approaches these confrontations similarly to how Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire formerly approached their dance routines: Although it might be difficult at times given how vicious the slaughter can be, the violence should instead be admired for its choreography and potential to shock.
Leitch kills human life with a callous disregard that still bothers me. “Bullet Train” represents one of the first and most ambitious pandemic-made blockbusters to be released, showing that Leitch and company felt confident enough in the return to normalcy of the world that they could have the Prince push a 6-year-old off a roof in order to entice the father of the child (Andrew Koji, by far the weakest link in the picture) onto the train.
King’s character, who sports a pink schoolgirl outfit and a black bob, is a complete mess. She is a cruel manipulator who usually presents as a helpless victim to trap her target.
In the end, “Bullet Train” reveals that the infamous underworld ruler the White Death (Michael Shannon) had a complex plot to get revenge on these murderers that was in no way a coincidence.
However, as the Elder, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, shows when he boards the train a few stops before Kyoto, he is not the only one who has experienced the loss of a loved one.
However, “Bullet Train” appears to have been made without the main actors so much as setting foot in Japan. The geographical logic of the film is illogical. Why not, then? In essence, it’s a live-action cartoon with notable appearances thrown in for extra comedy. Leitch is making a valiant effort to emulate Tarantino and Ritchie stylistically, even though the script and fake British accents are not powerful enough to merit such comparisons.
Characters Tangerine and Lemon are likeable, despite Lemon’s frequent ranting about how all he knows about humans comes from “Thomas the Tank Engine” (which reveals how limited the movie’s knowledge of human nature is).
Similar to Ladybug, who frequently quotes clichéd self-help proverbs that are met with laughter Although this may be a light-hearted journey, jokes like this highlight how shallow both the people and the movie they are in are. In fact, the complete opposite.
Their train of thinking is still boarding at the station, as Calvin and Hobbes so eloquently stated.