Bullet Train Review

Reviews Films
6.5

Critic

David Leitch (Deadpool 2) directs Sony Picture’s Bullet Train – an action-packed murder mystery of 5 assassins whose missions become progressively intertwined whilst aboard a high speed Japanese train.

Brad Pitt (Fight Club) stars as “Ladybug”, a recently enlightened hitman looking to try a more peaceful approach to his criminal work. This new mindset all goes out the window once he accepts a seemingly easy snatch-and-grab job located aboard a bullet train heading for Kyoto. Inspired by the likes of films such as Knives Out, Bullet Train stars a wide cast of hitmen and unsavoury folk that all become unknowingly involved in a “whodunit” murder mystery, whilst each also dealing with their own baggage. 

Bullet Train was a very mixed bag for me, but the main issue lies with its writing. Zak Olkewicz’s (Fear Street: Part Two – 1978) and Kôtarô Isaka’s (Golden Slumber) script just wasn’t clever enough to warrant its odd pacing and weak storytelling. The plot is told out of order, with far too many flashbacks and cutaways, leading to the film’s pace grinding to a halt in order to introduce vital story elements. This particular style of storytelling would have worked a lot better if the film was more complex or layered than it was. This misstep just ultimately comes across as a poor man’s Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie piece. The film clearly goes for a “style over substance” approach, which when done right can have the audience overlook poor writing or shoddy character work, but the film just isn’t slick or polished enough to really pull that off. 

This “quantity over quality” was also prevalent in the non-stop “bantery” jokes that are told throughout the film. Coming off the success of Deadpool 2, I can see why Leitch chose this route. Unfortunately most of the humour didn’t land for me. There was the occasional joke that worked, but for a script with so many jokes there really should have been more hits.

Bullet Train’s main draw card was its action, and this was expected with 87North Productions (John Wick franchise) behind the film – but sadly, their usual impressive choreography and stunt work just wasn’t on full display here. The fight scenes were actually quite lacklustre and rather disappointing. Given the uniqueness of the film’s location, I had higher hopes for some innovation in the action genre. The film’s exotic setting of Japan never felt truly utilised either, seeming like a missed opportunity for its full potential. 

Balancing the amount of characters that Bullet Train features is no easy task, and unfortunately this difficult undertaking has led to certain ones having most of their entire screen time shown in the trailers. Given how many characters were introduced during the film’s 126 minute run time, it’s no surprise that some would have to play second fiddle. The surprising part, however, was how many of these minor characters were known stars just being used as major selling points to advertise the film – and unfortunately I feel that this disappointing use will hinder some viewers’ experience.

Even with all this seemingly going against Bullet Train, there are still elements of it to enjoy. Once the second act started and the film found its footing, I started to really enjoy the quirkiness of what I was watching. This was almost too late for me to have written off the film entirely, but thankfully there was enough action in the third act to keep me engaged. 

Luckily Brad Pitt’s character carried this film, and was easily my favourite part of it. Every scene he’s in, Pitt proves that he is still a movie star. His character’s peace-loving approach to dealing with the many violent hurdles thrown his way led to some amusing interactions. The other standouts for me were Brain Tyree Henry’s “Lemon” and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s “Tangerine” – Twin hitmen tasked with protecting two assets aboard the train. Their dialogue, though not always hits, did have enough witty moments to warrant their characters major roles in the film. I think with some more script refining, Lemon and Tangerine would have worked as the perfect duo. The other assassins on board are largely unmemorable, portrayed as generic “baddies” driven by either money or revenge – although Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai) is always a welcome addition in my books.

Bullet Train isn’t as sophisticated as I’d hoped it would be, and that hurts me to type. This was easily one of my most anticipated films of 2022 and it didn’t quite reach the potential I believed it had. It still has enough action, comedy and twists to keep me somewhat engaged, though not as much as I’d hoped it would have. If you can take your seat, kick back and enjoy it for what it is, I’m sure you’ll still have a fun ride.

Rating 6.5/10

 

6.5

Critic