Bullet Train Speeds Through the Theater and Aims at the Funny Bone

The Stream: It is too long for the kind of story it’s telling and the jokes don’t always land.

The Big Screen: Brad Pitt bringing his comedy and action acting skills to the table along with the rest of the great cast.

The Final Bill: A movie filled with action, overflowing with comedy and while everything doesn’t hit, it’s good enough as a 2 hour disctraction.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: David Leitch
Writers: Zak Olkewicz (based on the book by Kotaro Isaka)
Stars: Brad Pitt, Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Andrew Koji, and Hiroyuki Sanada
Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller
Rating: R for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality
Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes
Production Companies: Sony, 87North, CTB Inc., Hill District Media
Platform: In theaters August 5, 2022
Notable Trailers: Medieval, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, John Wick: Chapter 4, The Invitation, The Woman King

Hey, Streamers! As the summer movie box office winds down, there are fewer big time movie releases to grab your attention. Yes, the dog days of August have arrived. Is there anything to get you out of the heat and into the cool, darkness of a movie theater? Well, Bullet Train is one of the last anticipated summer blockbusters to arrive in theaters. You want action? Bullet Train promises a lot of assassins confined in one space taking aim at each other. You want comedy? Bullet Train has a wisecracking Brad Pitt and a banter between Bryan Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson to scratch that itch. If you missed it last weekend, here’s whether you should devote a couple of hours to this runaway train.

Bullet Train was directed by David Leitch, who has strong action movie cred in that he directed John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. He has certainly brought that high octane action and style to this movie. The screenplay is by Zak Olkewicz based on a Japanese novel by Kotaro Isaka. Set in Japan, an assassin nearing the end of his career, Ladybug (Pitt), boards a bullet train *ding* in order to steal a briefcase. Ladybug is completing this mission in place of a colleague, Carver, for unknown reasons. Steal a briefcase? Seems pretty simple. If only! The train is brimming with other assassins on their own missions that may, or may not, overlap with Ladybug’s. There are the twins, Tangerine (Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Henry), who are transporting the briefcase and the kidnapped son of an infamous crime boss. There’s also The Prince (King), The Father (Koji) and the Elder (Sanada), who each have their own agendas. These threads weave in and out with flashbacks and asides galore to fill out the 2-hour runtime. From there, hijinks, action sequences and wisecracks ensue.

My first reaction to Bullet Train was, “Another assassin movie?!? Okay…” Clearly, the draw here is seeing Brad Pitt be effortlessly cool, funny and in action mode. He delivers. Ladybug is a weird character because of his reluctance to fall into the trope of your typical stoic assassin. He’s neurotic and has diarrhea of the mouth. Pitt has the charm and a screwball, daffy energy to balance out the gory action. Bryan Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have really good chemistry as well. They have great banter between the two. They play brothers convincingly such that you want to return to their scenes again and again. The story that these characters populate is less interesting because essentially it is just an assassin movie. Who will be the last one standing? Without the bit of humor that do work and actors like Pitt, Henry and Taylor-Johnson giving good performances, this movie would be pretty boring even though stuff is getting destroyed.

On the action note, there are some really good fight scenes, but I’d say there are both too many and also not substantial enough. In these movies, faceless henchmen always show up, and that lowers the stakes significantly. Of course, the hero isn’t going to lose to some faceless henchman! Nevertheless, there are enough dazzling set pieces and action sequences to catch your eye and bring your attention back. There is one CGI shot that is so ridiculous that I couldn’t decide whether it was intentional to add humor or a mistake to make it unrealistic. You’ll have to see it for yourself.

Lastly, there are some cool cameos that pop up throughout. Do people go to movies for minute-long cameos? *shrug*

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Ultimately, Bullet Train shoots its shot and hits just outside of the bullseye. It has a good cast that it working to bring the action and humor to this flick. Pitt, Henry and Taylor-Johnson are particularly good and memorable. Some of the action sequences work, but there can be too much going on for this otherwise pretty simple plot. I don’t know that it’s worth 2-hours, but it is not without its moments. Check out Bullet Train this weekend with a bowl of popcorn for a mid-afternoon matinee. You’ll have a good time for the most part.