Bullet Train ••••1/2
Hey Scott, it’s bullet time – Bullet Train time, that is.
And let’s be clear that we’re not talking about bullet suppositories. Let’s recap.
We’re introduced to “Ladybug” (Brad Pitt) – an American assassin who has been tasked by his secret handler “Beatle” to board the “Bullet Train” and retrieve a briefcase. Ladybug gets his gear from a locker but refuses to take a gun – because he recently underwent anger management therapy and is trying to rid himself of negative emotions. He no sooner boards the train when he is attacked by another assassin called “The Wolf.”
Ladybug is able to subdue the Wolf, but then he encounters two other bad actors, Lemon and Tangerine, a pair of brothers who just kidnapped the White Death’s son and have the briefcase that Ladybug steals. Mayhem erupts when a beautiful young girl named Prince kills White Death’s son. Ladybug engages in life and death struggles with Lemon and Tangerine, and all hell breaks loose.
Scott, Bullet Train is an entertaining movie with enough twists and turns and built-in secrets to hold one’s interest for the full 126 minutes. Not to mention a handful of cameos like Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock (also, Masi Oka [of “Heroes” fame] as the train ticket-taker – but that’s probably not a proper cameo). It felt like Quinton Tarantino remade the 1970s movie “Silver Streak” (with Richard Prior and Gene Wilder).
The “bit” or running gag in this film is that all these assassins are trying to kill each other and acquire the briefcase without anyone else on the train becoming wise to their antics. There’s a particularly “Bond-esque” fight scene in the galley where Ladybug and Tangerine are duking it out, and a stewardess comes in with a cart to offer beverages. The two killers stand down from their duel long enough to get a sparkling water – only to take up fisticuffs again when the women exits the car.
Greg, there can be no denying that Brad Pitt is flourishing in his mid-to-late career. Bullet Train showcases his talents in much the same way that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood did in 2019. We see a character who is smooth, talented, charismatic – and yes, dangerous. Pitt’s range as an actor is such that he can slip effortlessly into both comedic roles and dramatic roles, coloring each with a rare mix of strength and vulnerability. Twenty years ago I never would have thought Pitt would evolve beyond the status of eye candy.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb too much by saying that Bullet Train features one of the best movie character ensembles that we’ve seen in a long time. All the bad guys and girls in this film sparkle with in-your-face screen presence and deadly likability. And speaking of Tarantino, the intelligent dialogue and stylistic use of violence make this film reminiscent of, and on par with, the iconic film Pulp Fiction, which came out 30 years ago. The banter between the characters of Lemon and Tangerine reminded me of the witty repartee of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta.
Much has been said about the “whitewashing” of this movie. Ladybug, Tangerine, and Lemon were Japanese characters in the book version, and in this film they’ve been Anglicized. Remember all the fuss when Tom Cruise, at 5’ 7”, played the character of Jack Reacher who was supposed to be 6’ 5”? Well, that was a case of “height-washing”. It happens and whether it is right or wrong, it’s hard to say. For me personally, I just want to see a good movie and the ethnicities and nationalities are irrelevant. But as a white guy, that’s easy for me to say.
I also saw a resemblance between Bullet Train and Pulp Fiction. The violence mixed with whimsey and non-linear storytelling were used effectively in both films.
I have to differ with you about Brad Pitt’s performance in Bullet Train. Ladybug kept talking about how he was avoiding anger and stress but he didn’t really sound like he was finding his “happy place.” Pitt seemed to walk casually through this film, not really trying. I think someone like Owen Wilson would have been a better choice to play Ladybug, who reminds me of the more “crunchy” Hansel from Zoolander.
As much as I enjoyed Bullet Train, I don’t pine for more. I can see a sequel coming, but I won’t be rushing to the theater for a second helping. I give Bullet Train 4 out of 5 Reels for well-executed comedic action, and Brad Pitt’s lazy Ladybug just 3 out 5 Heroes.
Owen Wilson would’ve been a bold choice to play the role of Ladybug. Actually, a number of actors come to mind, including Ben Stiller and a younger Harrison Ford. Also, let’s talk about the train in this movie, which is a character itself. There are stylish spaces designating first class, economy, dining cars, bathrooms, luggage, engine rooms, roofs, railways, and massive viewing windows that only a bad guy’s headbutt can shatter.
And the fight scenes are remarkable. Never have I seen so many nimble, dexterous physical moves to avoid death, dismemberment, and maiming. These bad guys are master innovators in the art of cheating death and delivering death. More of this please, in Bullet Train 2, Bullet Plane or Bullet Suppository — whatever comes next.
I truly enjoyed this film and consider it to be one of the top films of 2022. The movie is a smart, sleek, entertaining adventure comedy, done with bloody great skill and flair. I give it 5 out of 5 Reels and 5 out of 5 Hero points.