‘Bullet Train’: A Movie We’ve Seen Too Often


(Courtesy Columbia Pictures and 87North Productions)

By Zach Anderson, Arts Writer


In David Leitch‘s newest thriller, we follow Brad Pitt’s character Ladybug, a contract assassin notorious for his bad luck, trying to retrieve a suitcase from a bullet train in Japan. Unfortunately for him, a mysterious benefactor named the White Death, played by Michael Shannon, has placed a target on his back, tasking a slew of other assassins to not let Ladybug off the train alive.

At its best, “Bullet Train” is a quirky action comedy in a beautiful setting with well-coordinated action sequences, but its finest moments shine dimly. If you want more of the same self-referential action humor that constantly hits theaters, this is the movie for you.

A Sleek Movie for Modern Audiences

“Bullet Train” relishes in its setting of modern-day Japan — an innovative, neon wonderland. As you can guess from the title, all but two scenes take place on a bullet train. A singular setting sounds unentertaining, yet there are a variety of fun action set pieces that kept my interest. A fight scene in a quiet car where both combatants must fight as silently as possible was particularly fun. The pop-up visuals that accompany fights and character introductions only add to the youthful ambiance. Everything feels in-your-face in the best way possible.

Some harsh critics may point to “Bullet Train” as Hollywood losing sight of what a cinematic experience should be, but in practice, it makes for a tonally consistent work. Leitch had a clear vision of what he wanted to make and his efforts to create that singular vision show. Not even the harshest critic can say this movie is messy unless they’re talking about its gory fight scenes.

Characters vs. Caricatures

However, the characters of “Bullet Train” are rougher around the edges than their sleek presentation. Each character’s singular, repetitive trait makes for a boring experience for anyone who likes dynamic characters. Pitt’s Ladybug was far and away the movie’s most egregious offender.

Every scene he’s in plays the same — the bad guy does a scary thing, Ladybug says, “Woah, man! Chill out!” then proceeds to accidentally beat the bad guy to a pulp. It’s entertaining the first five times, but after the sixth, I personally want to see something other than, “Can’t we just talk about this?” when our hero encounters danger.

This one-note approach isn’t all misses, thankfully. Aaron Taylor-Johnson‘s character, Tangerine, and Brian Tyree Henry‘s character, Lemon, hit a few solid comedic moments even with their one-note traits. This is derived from the duo’s obvious chemistry and impeccable comedic timing, not any hidden wit buried in the script’s banal lines.

Dejà Vu

If I had to sum up “Bullet Train“ in one word, it would have to be “trite.” My biggest irritation with this movie is that I do like aspects of it. The fourth wall breaks, slick visuals and fun energy make most scenes watchable and occasionally entertaining. Nevertheless, it feels like everything I saw had been done before.

It’s missing an aspect that made other Ryan Reynolds-type romps “Free Guy” and “Deadpool” worth seeing — seniority. “Deadpool” was the first of its kind for mainstream audiences. “Free Guy” was the first reiteration of its formula, a “Deadpool” but with video games. Unfortunately for “Bullet Train,” studios have already begun to shill out other iterations of this formula, so the movie has been demoted to “Deadpool” but with assassins.

Despite everything I’ve said, “Bullet Train” is still fun popcorn fodder. If you have nothing to do on a Saturday night and want to dissociate for two hours, I’d give it a watch, unless you’re as tired of “Deadpool” and other blank action comedies as I am. I’m afraid then this movie isn’t worth its weight in chimichangas.


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