Combustible Celluloid Review - Bullet Train (2022), Zak Olkewicz, based on a novel by Kôtarô Isaka, David Leitch, Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock, Benito A Martínez Ocasio (a.k.a Bad Bunny), Logan Lerman, Zazie Beetz, Masi Oka, Karen Fukuhara
Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock, Benito A Martínez Ocasio (a.k.a Bad Bunny), Logan Lerman, Zazie Beetz, Masi Oka, Karen Fukuhara
Written by: Zak Olkewicz, based on a novel by Kôtarô Isaka
Directed by: David Leitch
MPAA Rating: R for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality
Running Time: 126
Date: 08/05/2022
IMDB

Bullet Train (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Blurred Rail

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With gleefully excessive violence and little actual depth, this oversized action-thriller executes its many moving parts with skill, but it's Brad Pitt's dopey, languid performance that keeps the balance.

A career criminal codenamed "Ladybug" (Pitt) has spent some time on self-reflection, trying to live a more peaceful existence, and now prepares for his latest job, snatching a briefcase from a bullet train that runs between Tokyo and Kyoto. Unfortunately, the job is not so simple.

"Tangerine" (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and "Lemon" (Brian Tyree Henry) are supposed to deliver the case, along with a warlord's son (Logan Lerman), but lose both. And "The Prince" (Joey King) is blackmailing a man (Andrew Koji) into helping assassinate the warlord, who is also known as The White Death. Meanwhile, someone is poisoning people with snake venom, and a Mexican killer is seeking revenge. Is all of it somehow connected? And can Ladybug get out of this one alive?

Directed by David Leitch and based on a novel by Kotaro Isaka, Bullet Train is a little like a multiple-character heist movie like Ocean's Eleven or Logan Lucky, except that the "why" and "how" is less important than the "what," which is the fight scenes. The movie delights in pitting its many trained fighters and killers against as many obstacles as possible. Suspense is generated when characters sometimes come back from certain defeat, such as a character who is thrown off the train, jumps back onto its tail end and tries to work his way back inside, or when a previously planted item — like a poisonous snake — pops up again.

Thunderous, non-stop movies filled with constant fighting can become exhausting — see Free Fire, for example — but director Leitch, a former stunt performer and coordinator who turned to filmmaking with John Wick, has a good sense of rhythm. His stops and starts, flashbacks and reveals, all effectively build a rhythm that flows and doesn't feel oppressive.

But Pitt is the secret weapon. "Ladybug" can certainly fight, but the character is more of a talker than a fighter, and he's forever looking for ways to make things easier on himself. His laid-back quality adds a soft, sweet center to a hard, crunchy movie. (Henry's character's passion for "Thomas the Tank Engine" is also a nice, sweet touch.) All in all, Bullet Train may disappear into the horizon fairly soon after viewing, but it's a fun ride while it lasts.

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