Trains have always been a great place to set a movie. Think Murder on the Orient Express, Silver Streak and The First Great Train Robbery. They are enclosed; they can create tension and guarantee someone will end up being thrown off. The latest movie on a locomotive is Bullet Train, two hours of increasingly comic book violence that becomes more ludicrous as the journey continues. While it’s no masterpiece, it’s not as bad as some reviewers make out, and if you like movies like John Wick, get a ticket and jump on board.
Ladybug is an assassin who wants to change his ways. He has one more mission to complete, a simple job of boarding a bullet train in Toyko, taking a briefcase and getting off at the next stop. However, things become more complex as he discovers others who are in the same profession and who all are linked by the case. There are the twins, Lemon and Tangerine, who bring the case on board along with the son of a Russian mobster, the notorious White Death. The Prince, an assassin dressed as a schoolgirl who uses her innocence to twist others, and finally, The Father, a disturbed man wanting revenge from the person who pushed his son off a roof. Getting off the train isn’t going to be that easy.
Deadpool 2 and Hobbs and Shaw director David Leitch bring the same level of chaos and destruction to this all-action thriller. Mixing the style of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, this is relentless in its violence and very, very violent. In between the smart one-liners and characters explaining the plot, there are fights galore as the assassins discover who each of the other characters’ real identities are. Sometimes the plot can get bogged down with exposition and flashbacks, explaining where these people come from and where they fit into the story.
This is where the film falters. There are so many set pieces and fight scenes that it runs out of steam before the final act. They say you can become desensitized to many violent scenes, which is the case here. It becomes increasingly repetitive. While they are cleverly put together and, in some cases, particularly a fight between Ladybug and Lemon in the quiet carriage, you think there could be more than endless scenes of blood and gore. There’s also a running gag about Thomas The Tank Engine that does get a little tiresome.
That doesn’t mean the film is a failure. Quite the opposite. The dialogue is often amusing, and there are moments when we enter a bizarre whodunnit. Leitch keeps the energy levels at full tilt for the whole 2 hours running time, and if you can forgive the often dodgy CGI moments of the train, it is a perfect popcorn movie that nicely passes the time.
The cast all seem to be having the time of their lives. Brad Pitt is a blast as Ladybug, with his zen attitude, even though he appears to be fighting for his life over a briefcase. When the film dips, it’s because he’s not on screen. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is also great fun as Tangerine, one of the twins, doing his best Guy Ritchie gezza voices, while Bryan Tyree Henry, as Lemon, has a less than successful cockney accent. There are a couple of cameos from famous friends of Mr Pitt, which adds to the entertainment.
Bullet Train isn’t a train crash of a film but one that does deliver in fits and starts. If you like your movies full-on, then this is for you. If you are a bit squeamish, then best wait for the next train. Otherwise, jump on board and hold on tight.
3 out of 5
Director: David Leitch
Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Sandra Bullock
Written by: Zak Olkewicz and (based on the book) Kôtarô Isaka
Running Time: 126 mins
Release date: 3rd August 2022