August 4, 2022

GENRE | Brad Pitt Derails A Killer Ride – 'Bullet Train'

"I gotta get off this train."
Brad Pitt David Leitch | Bullet Train
Sony Pictures / 87North Productions
Brad Pitt stars in his former stunt double turned hotshot director David Leitch's action-packed hitman comedy, Bullet Train, based on Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka's crime thriller novel, Maria Beetle. Full of oddball assassin mythology about the violent Japanese underworld, Pitt's jovial but hapless snatch-and-grab criminal, codenamed "Ladybug", gets in way over his head by accidentally stumbling into an international blood feud—imagine John Wick (which Leitch co-directed) but as a comedy set on a high-speed train from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Featuring an impressive cast who co-star as a cohort of various competing assassins all with cute aliases, Aaron Taylor-Johnson ("Tangerine"), Brian Tyree Henry ("Lemon"), Joey King ("The Prince"), Andrew Koj, and more than a few surprise cameos show up as varying levels of dangerous killers in a glossy, high-budget version of a generic action thriller straight out of the Quentin Tarantino fuelled mid-'90s.

Pitt is magnetic and commits to the bit with his energetic comic performance—he channels a more motivated take on "The Dude from The Big Lebowski—surrounded by a sea of deadly serious hitmen around him. Taylor-Johnson and Henry are fantastic as a pair of mismatched assassin brothers (seemingly from a Guy Ritchie gangster flick) with thick British accents constantly pontificating on their life of violence through random Thomas the Tank Engine references.

Adapted by screenwriter Zak Olkewicz, the script takes the fairly serious Japanese crime saga on the page and turns it into a full-on action-comedy—starring a noticeably mostly non-Japanese cast—featuring an extended backstory about a viciously ruthless Russian gangster called "White Death" (Michael Shannon) who takes over the yakuza in a bloody uprising culminating in a series of "fated" events meticulously planned for this particular train ride.

Bullet Train flirts with being a more cleverly laid out labyrinth of a crime drama before settling on another intentionally derivative revenge plot full of offbeat characters in order to mine its live-action cartoon sense of family vengeance. It's a fun and stylish trip filled with amusing but familiar reversals. However, the excessive amount of comically violent action and high body count often make for a relentless experience interrupted by moments of wild physical comedy.


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