Indifferent must’ve been the best word I could think about when it came to how I’d like to describe “Bullet Train” at first glance. Seeing it now, it’s ridiculously intuitive and fun despite the bad luck it comes across.
A stuntman turned director, there’s no question David Leitch’s hyper-kinetic, immersive, stunt-driven-style of handling the material he has can be a lot to handle for some but here’s some credit; the man has rhythm. And despite a constant onslaught of flashbacks, reveals, and fighting that admittedly gets exhausting after a while, it never feels overtly oppressive.
Weird accents aside, none of the acting is particularly bad as they make the most out of their characters’ collection of quirks and cliches; you can tell they’re having fun with it. Expressive amplification is littered all over the cinematography and editing, it lives the hell out of its R-rating, has some nice physical comedy, the claustrophobic setting does the production design enough justice as it stages the fight scenes a little better despite never fully taking advantage of them and it moves along at an appropriately brisk pace…..early on. Fight scenes themselves either have choreographic precision employed in the service of comedy or large bombastic set-pieces that lose themselves in admittedly befuddling CGI. I’m all for high-octane, balls to the wall action but it has to fit within the context of the story for them to not feel tacked on just for the sake of it.
And that’s ultimately the root of the problem here: nothing really gels together even when it does.
Normally whenever Sony puts together a story with a plotline this convoluted and this bloated up the ass, it doesn’t take long for it to become a nightmare. Needless to say, this is barely an exception. This John Wick/Murder On The Orient Express presentation laced with this Tarantino mashup of style, Deadpool tone and Looney Tunes pizazz should’ve gone hand in hand together but the writing lets it all down; for what’s essentially supposed to be a live-action anime, the writing doesn’t carry that same goofball energy the rest of the film does and, in some instances, actually doubles down on trying to put a message in about luck and faith when the rest of the film admittedly could do without it. It aims to be as chaotic and animated as possible but comes off like a Rube Goldberg machine at some instances.
Yes, the "why" and "how" is less important than the "what” here, but unlike Leitch’s previous movies where the worldbuilding and presentation matches or balances out that tone and writing presented, suspension of disbelief can only go so far in this flick. Even when the pieces finally come together near the end, I kept getting pulled out the experience.
Dialogue is perhaps the most generic I’ve seen this year, the hopscotching between subplots and flashbacks derail the films momentum a lot, it’s yet ANOTHER western film that fetishizes Japanese culture simply just because, it’s unashamedly packed to the brim with exposition and it could’ve ended about a good ten minutes earlier because it started to drag a lot, actually.
But who the hell am I kidding? After a while, I just didn’t care anymore.