David Leitch spent nearly 20 years in Hollywood rising up the ranks as both a stunt performer & stunt coordinator. His stunt resume is immense and includes five features where Leitch doubled for Brad Pitt. In 2014 he made his feature directorial debut co-directing the original John Wick. Leitch became rather busy after the success of Wick, veering off on his own to make the studio action blockbusters Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw; all within a 3 year period. Now David has come full circle, instead of taking hits for Brad Pitt, he’s now directing him in his latest studio action romp; Bullet Train.
Luck of the Draw
Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, a man returning from a sabbatical with a new lease and view on life; the caveat is he’s a professional assassin. Although it comes with the territory, bystanders and others have an unusual tendency to die in his presence in freak accidents. Despite his insistence that he’s bad luck, he chooses to live with utter positive after finding himself in therapy. Easing himself back into the life of black market crime, his handler gives him a simple task: pick up a briefcase located on a bullet train in Tokyo. With his newfound sense of zen, Ladybug boards the train without his provided gun. Unbeknownst to him, he’s not the only assassin on this train with an agenda.
If you were to DALL-E Mini “Smokin’ Aces mixed with Snowpiercer but fun”, the result would be Bullet Train. Being a David Leitch film, there’s tons of action at frequent intervals, made with the highest craft in the art form. Despite being set in the confined space of a train the entire film, you never feel claustrophobic. With cheated (and beautiful) sets, the choreography and camera do an excellent job using the space and keeping the audience interested the entire experience. In between all that action is a constant stream of zippy dialogue and just funny enjoyable bits. From animations, to transitions, flashbacks, excessive neon use (my favorite) you’ve got yourself a blockbuster oozing with style.
The aforementioned other assassins aboard the bullet train are a treasure trove of some of the most talented actors working today. It would take an entire paragraph just to list out the names of every familiar face here, so I’ll just stick to the main players. As is usually the case for any of his projects, Brian Tyree Henry steals the show as Lemon. He’s part of a duo or “twins” with Tangerine, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson thrives getting to play a “fun” character for the first time in ages and I hope he gets more opportunities to play these kinds of roles. Joey King (arguably the most successful child actor in recent memory?) plays a sadistic young assassin not to be messed with, a great on brand performance from her. The list goes on and on, including some A-List cameos. Most were spoiled in the trailers and that’s a real bummer, but there’s still more to see that will bring you a smile.
That’s basically all I’m going to reveal about the film as the marketing has done plenty of that already. The plot is lean with an action focused approach in a limiting setting, so this review will be brief. Sharing my main complaint with The Black Phone, the trailers I was constantly forced to watch simply revealed way too much. For a movie driven by mayhem, humor, and explosive action, those would have hit so much stronger had I not already seen so much of it. To go along with that there are a couple set pieces that are clearly 100% made on green screen and it shows. That does bother me with Marvel movies too, but it’s passable there with so much necessary CGI. With a film like Bullet Train consisting of no aliens or spandex suits, it’s extremely distracting and takes me straight out of the scene. Luckily this is not the case for the majority of this cinematic adventure.
Overall, Bullet Train is a great end of summer flick to catch at your local cinema for a fun filled 2 hour break from society. It’s minor pitfalls keep it from reaching certain levels of greatness, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable time at the multiplex for the foreseeable future. Literally, we’re facing a massive drought on the theatrical release schedule. Expect many reviews from me on mid-to-bad horror movies that my wife forced me to see. In the meantime, I give Bullet Train 7.5 cheeky assassin codenames out of 10.
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