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Bullet Train Review: Leisurely Telling Derails Film With Brilliant Performances

'Bullet Train' directed by David Leitch stars Brad Pitt in the lead as an operative codenamed Ladybug.

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Bullet Train

'Bullet Train' Review: Leisurely Telling Derails Film With Brilliant Performances

Stuntman-turned-filmmaker David Leitch pulls you into Bullet Train and delivers exactly as promised– over 2 hours of unfettered chaos and thrill, peppered with (sometimes heavy-handed) comic bits.

Leitch’s latest project is more Deadpool 2 than it is John Wick. Bullet Train is an action film set in a bullet train to Kyoto, filled with more assassins and secret agents than Agatha Christie’s Orient Express.

Brad Pitt (codename: Ladybug) plays the absolute opposite of a “hero”– he’s trying to scale back to more ‘snatch-and-grab’ missions and treats his therapist’s words as gospel.
'Bullet Train' directed by David Leitch stars Brad Pitt in the lead as an operative codenamed Ladybug.

Brad Pitt in Bullet Train.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

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He gets on the train to retrieve a suitcase; a simple task, except multiple other people are vying for the cargo too.

A train, rattling at breakneck speeds, is such a marvelous setting for a thriller– as enclosed spaces often are. Limitations of any kind, in this case the inability to escape the vehicle unless at a station, adds to the high stakes.

Trying to maintain his new zen lifestyle, Ladybug wants no trouble but every time he tries to leave the train, he is intercepted by a new character– all introduced in Guy Ritchie-style introduction cards with nicknames.

The best of the lot are ‘the Twins’ Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Lemon and Tangerine’s brilliant performances (and the latter’s immaculate suit) and ever-entertaining banter are highlights of the film.

'Bullet Train' directed by David Leitch stars Brad Pitt in the lead as an operative codenamed Ladybug.

Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Bullet Train.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Every character in Bullet Train is a two-dimensional caricature instead of a three-dimensional human; for instance Lemon bases his understanding of humans on the ‘kids’ show’ Thomas the Tank Engine.

(In his defense, he’s never really wrong).

Also on the train are Wolf (Benito A Martinez Ocasio aka Bad Bunny), Prince (Joey King), and The Hornet (I’ll let you enjoy the reveal on this one). Every actor uses the material they’re handed to become cogs in the chaotic machine that is Bullet Train.

King as the deceptive and manipulative Prince is frustrating and a little grating but she’s ingenious and that is perhaps exactly who she is intended to be.

'Bullet Train' directed by David Leitch stars Brad Pitt in the lead as an operative codenamed Ladybug.

Joey King in Bullet Train.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

With the expertly performed caricatures and the film’s commitment to tomfoolery, Bullet Train is Leitch’s answer to Looney Tunes and Tintin.
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The screenplay by Zak Olkewicz based on Kōtarō Isaka’s ‘Maria Beetle’ often doesn’t manage to keep up with the film’s pace making the extravagant venture rather repetitive and trite. Even though, fate and karma, are showrunners of the film, the story still seems to meander, finally becoming too big for its breeches.

But what truly shines is Jonathan Sela’s spectacular cinematography– the camera swivels and somersaults to keep the audience hooked and entertained. Sela’s skill is exceptionally complemented by Elizbet Ronaldsdottir’s masterful and sharp editing.

'Bullet Train' directed by David Leitch stars Brad Pitt in the lead as an operative codenamed Ladybug.

A still from Bullet Train.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Leitch creates one action set piece after another which, even with the dearth of action sequences in cinema, still come off looking original and innovative (like I said, Leitch is playing on home ground). Some comic bits come through, especially courtesy Ladybug and Lemon-Tangerine.

The film’s darker themes are explored through Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), and the menacing White Death (Michael Shannon), who has a brilliant signature move.

The showdown between Sanada and Shannon comes quite late, around the time the film has already gone off the rails, and in that juxtaposition comes off looking fabulous.
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Bullet Train isn’t a ‘deep’ film with its understanding of both human nature and its setting being woefully superficial. But it’s chock full with jokes and bits; so much so that many are bound to work.

Also, if celebrity cameos are your thing, there are a couple interesting ones in the film (fun to see Sandra Bullock in Bullet Train after we saw Pitt in Lost City). And at the end of the day, Leitch’s film is a topsy-turvy fun ride to Kyoto.

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Topics:  Brad Pitt   Bullet Train 

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