Director: David Leitch | 2h 7mins | Action, Comedy
A simple ‘snatch and grab’ job goes haywire for a hired assassin when he finds himself on a bullet train surrounded by fellow assassins.
Director David Leitch has been at the forefront of action films over the past few years, becoming somewhat of a poster-child for brainless, fun and overly violent blockbusters like Hobbs & Shaw and the immensely popular Deadpool 2. Bullet Train rides the same flashy and chaotic tracks as those films, giving people a dose of throwaway comedy and endless cameos, but the truth is this Brad Pitt driven journey is completely souless.
The phrase ‘style over substance’ is thrown around quite widely across the action genre, but there is an argument that Bullet Train encapsulates it better than most. Its sizzling neon backdrop of late night Tokyo is overplayed, the action is fun but hollow and each and every character feels like prime Guy Ritchie or Tarantino runoff. Arguably the saving grace is a leading star who is having as much fun as possible as our reluctant hero.
It’s nice to Brad Pitt having so much fun as Ladybug, an unenthusiastic hitman who’s newfound spirituality is overturned as he embroils himself in more and more chaos. Joining him in the cast is Aaron Taylor Johnson as ‘Tangerine’ and his brother ‘Lemon’ played by Brian Tyree Henry, Joey King as the crafty ‘Prince’ and a slew of other notable names all just trying to have fun. All big names and likeable screen presences, but it’s their hollow back and forths and the scripts constant need to surprise that make you less than excited to continue the journey with them.
The nonlinear storyline has been used multiple times in action-comedies over the past few years thanks to directors like James Gunn and Leitch himself, acting as a way to fluff the more expositional parts of their stories. It’s a style that does work a lot, but in Bullet Train it somehow feels like a ploy. A distraction from the fact this train is running out of steam, and fast.
As the film reaches its explosive final destination, as the group of villains and anti-heroes head towards a common enemy known only as ‘White Death’, there really isn’t anything to grasp onto or keep you enticed. The comedic action played to a lively soundtrack, the cameos and the hit and miss jokes keep this film afloat just long enough to do the job, but as the film reaches its bloated ending the high-energy tone becomes exhausting, unable to do the one thing this film is there for – entertain.
Some films are great to switch your brain off to, and David Leitch has made a couple of said films, but Bullet Train’s incessant need to be cheeky and over the top makes it less than first class. This is a journey you’ll be departing way before its violent ending.