Movie Review: Bullet Train

Gleefully over-the-top action movies with unnecessarily complicated plots have always appealed to me, so there was very little chance that I would wind up disliking Bullet Train. I am happy to say that, while it isn’t the best of its type, I was not disappointed. The core idea sounds simple enough, a hired assassin codenamed Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is being guided through one more job via earpiece by his handler Maria (Sandra Bullock). All he has to do is board a bullet train headed for Kyoto, retrieve a briefcase with a train sticker on the handle, and get back off. But he is understandably wary, as a recent string of perceived bad luck has him convinced that things can’t possibly be that easy.

Since we have a 2-hour movie to fill, his intuition proves to be spot on, and while things initially seem to go off without a hitch, just as he’s about to disembark he is spotted by another assassin known as The Wolf (Bad Bunny), who believes that Ladybug poisoned everyone at his wedding. Additionally, the case itself was brought on board by 2 more assassins, Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who had been tasked with getting it to a notorious gangster known as The White Death (Michael Shannon), along with his son (Logan Lerman) whom they had just rescued from kidnappers. And if that wasn’t enough, a young woman known as The Prince (Joey King) also wants to get the briefcase to exact her own revenge against The White Death and lured Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji) on board to use as a pawn in her plan, all while yet another assassin known as The Hornet (Zazie Beetz) awaits her chance to strike using the highly toxic venom of a boomslang snake she smuggled aboard. Not so simple anymore, is it?

While Bullet Train was initially being developed as a straight thriller, the almost ludicrously convoluted nature of the plot lends itself pretty easily to comedy, so it was smart of screenwriter Zak Olkewicz (Fear Street: 1978) and director David Leitch (Atomic BlondeDeadpool 2) to lean more heavily in that direction. The rather stacked cast are all game and seemingly having a ball with the material. Leitch’s heavily stylized direction, with its surplus of neon, slo-mo, and gorgeous shot composition along with the often balletic fight choreography all add-up to make this one of the year’s most purely enjoyable films, despite the pretty grisly violence. If the movie has any faults, it does sometimes manage to simultaneously feel like too much and not enough, but other than that, this is a fast-moving, enjoyable ride that most viewers will happily take again. ★★★★

rated r for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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