Review | Bullet Train
“Bullet Train delivers great fun, some violent death scenes, and some brilliantly hilarious moments during its two-hour run time that will entertain audiences around the world and leave them asking for more.”
Let’s face the facts. Apart from a few movies that have genuinely been great entertainment, the summer blockbuster season of 2022 has been lackluster. Some big movies have made their millions without ever really engaging the audience. Some have even been so bad, that I’ve exited the theater hating them. But for all of the failures, some have been great entertainment. We can now add ‘Bullet Train’ to the list of films that are worthy of the price of admission. For something that could so easily become a churned-out piece of garbage, the film is a welcome breath of fresh air. With some terrific performances, Bullet Train delivers great fun, some violent death scenes, and some brilliantly hilarious moments during its two-hour run time that will entertain audiences around the world and leave them asking for more.
The setup is quite simple. Trained killer Ladybug (Brad Pitt, excellent here) wants to give up his life but is pulled back in by his handler Maria Beetle in order to collect a briefcase on a bullet train heading from Tokyo to Kyoto with only a few stops in between. Onboard the train, he and other competing assassins discover their objectives are all connected. The question becomes, who will make it off the train alive and what awaits them at the terminal station? The plot threads featured for the various characters all connect in some way or another until they combine into a revelation near the climax. But it’s the getting there that is almost all of the fun.
Every single member of the cast plays their part in bringing the film to life. And every one of them is a vital cog in helping the story and the movie move forward. Joey King plays Prince, a British assassin who poses as a schoolgirl. We, the audience, are privy to the information that she isn’t who she appears to be while the other characters are not. And herein lies the fun of her character. We know she is dangerous and a handful, but to every other passenger on the train, she is a sweet, innocent young woman. Joey King plays to her strengths in the role that is more important than we realize at first. And she comes out of proceedings with great effect. Her performance is wonderful, all manipulative and scheming while appearing as pure as the driven snow. It is a wonderful performance by the young actress.
Andrew Koji as Yuichi Kimura, a Japanese assassin is equally as good. His storyline connects to the bigger picture in a demanding way. And we can’t help but feel for him every second he appears on the screen. He goes through the emotional wringer for the majority of the film before finally finding his feet. The same has to be said for Hiroyuki Sanada who plays Yuichi’s father and is named The Elder. Although his appearances are fleeting during proceedings, when he finally gets his chance to shine, he grabs it with both hands and becomes someone we can relate to and can follow without question. And we can’t help but like him when he comes into his own.
Some of the well-known stars appear in limited or cameo roles during proceedings. Michael Shannon appears as the character, The White Death, the leader of a criminal organization. His character casts a huge shadow over proceedings but Shannon only appears in the final twenty minutes or so. However, once he does appear onscreen, we are hooked. For his limited screentime, Shannon grabs us by the lapels and forces us to look at him. It is a masterful performance from a masterful actor. Logan Lerman as The Son, aka White Death’s son doesn’t really have much to do but whose character is a vital addition to the plot threads running through the film. Although his screentime is extremely brief, Lerman gives us a slimy performance for which we will despise his character, much to the actor’s prowess.
Benito A Martinez Ocasio aka Bad Bunny appears as The Wolf, a Mexican assassin with a vendetta against Ladybug. Again, his appearance is brief but what he manages to do with his screentime is marvelous. It isn’t a spoiler to say he has a fight with Brad Pitt’s Ladybug. But the scene itself and the flashbacks that accompany it is so well staged, that we can’t help but enjoy his appearance. Zazie Beetz as Hornet, an American assassin posing as a train crew member is vital but also has possibly one of the shortest appearances of all the characters in the film. It is a surprise to see her appear for a fleeting moment during proceedings.
Masi Oka as the train’s conductor and Karen Fukuhara as a train crew member appear in brief stints before vanishing from proceedings entirely. Of the two, it is Karen Fukuhara who gets the most screentime. And her character does appear during a vital moment. While Sandra Bullock, as Maria Beetle, Ladybug’s handler and contact is confined to a vocal appearance and a brief physical appearance.
BRIAN TYREE HENRY
Brian Tyree Henry as Lemon, a British assassin and Tangerine’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) associate comes ever so close to stealing the film. His performance is possibly his best in a movie ever. He nails the Cockney British accent completely. If we didn’t know the actor was American, we could easily believe he really was British. He is the character we come so close to loving of all who appear in the film. Violent and deadly one moment, kind, tender and lovable the next, Henry’s performance is a standout. Sometimes, we get the opinion that his character is almost childlike. Almost. He pulls out a masterful acting performance in his quieter moments while amazing us with his violent, bloodthirsty side the next. He gives us, at times, some of the most joyful and laugh-out-loud moments in the entire film. And we can’t help but fall in love with him. Henry’s masterful and terrific performance becomes one of the film’s highlights without a doubt.
Of course, the main star of the film is Brad Pitt. And he is excellent here as Ladybug. He is the one character we cannot help but follow from the start of the film until the end credits. Pitt proves himself to not only be a superb actor for any occasion but a brilliant comedian too. He sells his comedic moments with great aplomb. And his every move is full of great comedic timing and delivery of the speech. At times, we find ourselves with aching sides as Ladybug befalls misfortune after misfortune in some terrific action scenes that are tinged with some brilliant humor. And Pitt’s delivery of a British accent (Don’t ask!) is something that will have the audience belly laughing all the way.
It isn’t quite in the realms of Dick Van Dyke but it is similar. The only difference is that Pitt’s is supposed to be funny. And he pulls it off. But he comes into his own during the fight and action sequences that his character has to contend with. As a hero, Pitt delivers with some bone-crunching effects and some beautifully choreographed action scenes. He is the star of the film without a doubt. But even he, despite his great role, can’t become the film’s MVP.
AARON TAYLOR JOHNSON
The MVP of the entire movie is Aaron Taylor-Johnson. His performance as Tangerine, another British assassin and Lemon’s associate steals the film out from everyone else. The actor slips into his role with such ease, with such gusto, that we cannot take our eyes off him when he is on screen. In fact, when he isn’t, we end up pining for him to come back. Taylor-Johnson is superb from the first time we see him until the last. Tangerine is the more forward-thinking, the more driven of the pairing of him and Lemon. But that doesn’t make him the smartest of the pair. His character is the more violent out of the two, seemingly relishing the bloodshed he creates and manufactures. He is also the more scheming of the pairing.
Taylor-Johnson also brings a side to the character that we wouldn’t expect. There is one scene that makes our hearts go out to him. And deep down, under the blood on his clothing and the violence he manifests, there is a true heart underneath. And true feelings. What could and probably should have been a one-dimensional side character is transformed into a human being that we actually end up caring about. A supporting character that could so easily have led the film. And that is a major surprise. Taylor-Johnson delivers a performance that lingers in the memory well after the end credits have rolled. Of all the characters that appear during the film, his is the one that we want to see more of. And that is a credit to Taylor-Johnson’s performance here.
The film is directed by David Leitch. Although only Chad Stahelski was credited for directing, Leitch co-directed the original ‘John Wick.’ And it shows here. His direction is fast-paced at times with a brilliant sense of directorial style. We can see from the start that Leith’s fingerprints are all over the film. And that is a major advantage for the movie. Leitch used to be Brad Pitt’s stunt double. Here, he directs Pitt and company to sheer perfection. He frames his leading man with some beautiful shots of Japan and some CGI rendering of the mountains the country possesses. His directorial style fits the movie like a hand fits a glove. And he manages to frame all of his actors perfectly in every scene that the film contains. This is his best work to date and it shows.
Sadly, the film does contain a couple of things that distract the audience somewhat. The first is some of the visual effects. For the most part, they work perfectly. But in others, they are slightly shoddy and take the audience out of the film. These moments are very few and far between but just enough to ever so slightly spoil the enjoyment of the film. The second is a personal thing to me. The film contains a side character of a deadly snake. Now, I HATE the damn things so you can guess I wasn’t that enamored of having one during most of the film. But at times, even the snake suffers from some underwhelming CGI effects. It was still enough to have me cowering in my seat. But with the $90million budget the film has, it is still somewhat lacking and it shows in several scenes.
This is what we can all agree is a REAL summer blockbuster. It has all the right ingredients to be a roaring success. From the start of proceedings through to the climax of the end credits, we are in for a ride that we can all enjoy. There is a mid-credits stinger that is crowd-pleasing and could potentially lead to a sequel. But any sequel would be hard-pressed to top what is on show here. The film won’t win any Oscars but it does exactly what it needs to. It entertains us, sometimes it moves us, but ultimately it makes us roar with laughter in all the right places.
The acting is top-notch, the action is first-class, and the humor is superb. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously and the film doesn’t pretend that it’s anything but what it needs to be. A first-class movie-going experience that deserves to be a runaway success. I loved it from start to finish. And I can’t wait to get my return ticket to ride this train all over again.
“Bullet Train” is released today in U.K cinemas and will be in U.S theaters from Friday, August 5th. Book your tickets NOW!
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Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!