Bullet Train review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The progression of Bullet Train is one of the most fascinating aspects of this fast-paced picture. It’s a film loaded with an ensemble cast, twisty plots, daring action, violent fights, and absurd visual gags. The surprising element is how it all manages to stay together and remains nearly consistent with its fun and eccentricities.
Brad Pitt is the zen-like Ladybug, known for his bad luck and his newfound desire to favor non-lethal takedowns. He makes for a clever character that never intends to kill but does so anyway. His mission is to board a bullet train in Tokyo and swipe a suitcase. Complicating the mission are a host of other dangerous individuals. In current possession of the case are the brotherly duo Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), the perfect mismatched pair of assassins. While hauling the suitcase and a target they need to bring home alive, they have spirited debates about Thomas The Tank Engine characters. Also present is the mafia daughter Prince (Joey King), the revenge-hungry Yuichi (Andrew Koji), the Mexican assassin The Wolf (Benito A. Martínez Ocasio), and the poisoned-themed assassin The Hornet (Zazie Beetz). Not to mention there are a few surprise cameos that you won’t believe the roles they’ve been placed within.
This is a film that is constantly moving and always high on energy. It’d have to be for taking place on a bullet train, right? The messy plot of mafia alliances and bitter feuds all swirls together with a stylish edge, complete with punctuating typography for each character introduced. You gotta admire the boldness in such a picture that has the comedic chops to spend an absorbent amount of time on one character’s backstory for their introduction, only to kill them off almost immediately after their reveal. There are many other twists throughout the ride, where characters will commit double-crosses, triple-crosses, alliances, and sometimes even come back to life after believing they’re dead.
There are many charming sequences throughout. Pitt and Henry really do steal the show with their quirks and have one of the most inventive fight scenes. When facing each other in a quiet car, they proceed to fist-fight while keeping the volume low for one old woman who can’t stop shushing. The running bit of Henry’s character trying to label the Diesel of the train in his labeling of Thomas's characters is pretty cute, especially the way he holds onto stickers and relates the classic British kid’s show to his childhood. The climactic battle of the yakuza is pleasing to the eye with sword/gun fights inside and outside the train as the speeding vehicle comes to an explosive crash. Also, Michael Shannon is in the climax with white hair and wielding a sword, leading to one of the film’s most absurd deaths with a great payoff.
Bullet Train nearly wears out its welcome by the end as director David Leitch inches it across the finish line. It certainly does feel a bit ballooned from its book source material. That being said, it’s still a pretty fast-paced ride that is worth the trip for the fantastic performances, exciting action, and a dark charm that always keeps a giddy grin on the face.