Watching Bullet Train, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a Guy Ritchie film or second-rate Tarantino rip-off. However, this fast-paced, speedy-delivery action-comedy directed by David Leitch from the likes of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, makes a solid effort thanks to its performance by lead actor Brad Pitt.
Based on Kōtarō Isaka’s 2010 book, Bullet Train tells the story of Ladybug (Brad Pitt) who has given up on his days of being a hire-for-kill guy and instead heads to Japan to steal a briefcase on a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. He is excited about this easy job and to stop killing and being messy along the way, declaring himself officially unlucky. That is until the train ends up being full of other assassins and killers out to get each other and grab the suitcase for their own reasons. But as Ladybug is leaving his past behind, he must reckon with the fact that he might have to kill or be killed.
Pitt is the star of the show here as the eternally optimistic and redeemable hitman caught in the crossfires of a conflict much bigger than himself. But there are also many excellent performances across the board, particularly by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Tyree Henry who play siblings Tangerine and Lemon. The two perfect their comic timing and lean into the action seamlessly throughout. Joey King, Bad Bunny and Michael Shannon also do a solid job with their roles.
Writer Zak Olkewicz’s timed dialogue sees some character’s banter quickly interposed between action scenes. The use of flashbacks is a nice novelty and the frenzied nature of the story allows for this break in pace, though they are overused by the end. Unfortunately, the last quarter of the film drags on, and the final fight doesn’t feel as satisfying when it arrives, instead opting for ridiculous over-the-top Fast and Furious-esque sequences.
That being said, Leitch does a solid job with the script and his fast-paced shots and editing make the film sing. Fast whip pans and camera shots absorb you into the movie itself, feeling almost jokey and not too violent (similar to Edgar Wright). It then feels like a fun time at the cinemas over a gore-fest that it could be.
Bullet Train is fun. Yes, it is overlong and some storylines feel unneeded and unserviced by the script, but it’s a fun action flick full of strong star power, great performers and twists and turns along the way.