It takes a lot for a film to surprise me, and I love it when one does. “Bullet Train” is chocked full of so much stylish, bloody, violent fun that it reminds me why I love movies in the first place. Director David Leitch brings a confident, creative vision to his Guy Ritchie-meets-Gareth Evans-meets Matthew Vaughn-meets Quentin Tarantino style that’s rambunctious, frenzied, and in your face. While some will detest this sort of mayhem, many fans of the genre will join me in enthusiastically screaming, “shoot this into my veins!“
Unlucky assassin Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is tired of the brutality. He’s back for another job, but has pledged to work peacefully and without a weapon. Ladybug has been tasked with retrieving a silver briefcase from a high-speed train in Japan, which seems simple enough. Fate steps in, naturally, putting a damper on his well-intentioned plans. The train is filled with the most lethal adversaries (and one deadly snake) from around the globe, and they all want the same thing. Chaos ensues in what may be a literal last man standing scenario.
Based on the book by Kôtarô Isaka, the film takes place almost solely onboard a train, but it never feels claustrophobic. Despite tight close-ups and many dialogue-heavy scenes with questionable writing, the cast (including Joey King, Andrew Koji, Michael Shannon, and Hiroyuki Sanada) keeps things engaging. Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a pair of professional criminals are particularly entertaining, and Pitt exercises his movie star chops with great aplomb. The storytelling is terrific (one of my favorite bits is the tale of Wolf, which is wonderfully executed), even if everything doesn’t quite come together as well as it could.
This is also a gorgeous looking film. Jonathan Sela‘s colorful cinematography is alluring, with a richness that elevates every scene. Leitch is skilled at directing action scenes that are thrilling, and fights that are well choreographed. Even the CGI is exciting.
The film reaches just the right balance between action, violence, and humor, and it’s one that I cannot wait to revisit. From the killer soundtrack to the rapid-fire visual storytelling, there’s a lot going on at all times. If you’re not paying attention, you’re guaranteed to miss something. I feel this one could benefit from subsequent viewings. Plus, it’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to rush back to re-watch a movie the second it ended.
“Bullet Train” is a film that will prove to be an acquired taste. It’s the type of movie that you’ll either love or loathe, with very few landing somewhere in between. It’s illogical, confrontational, and it’s sometimes evident that the film trying too hard, but I found it easy to overlook the flaws because it’s just so damn entertaining. Talk about a nonstop thrill ride.