Bullet Train

  • 20 Aug - 26 Aug, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

David Leitch’s directing credits – Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw – have remained firmly tethered to his stunt background, occasionally with entertaining results. But his latest is so busy delivering violent action with a self-satisfied wink that its contorted plotting and one-note characters get real tedious real fast.

This is a thriller about family, fate and fortune in which the stakes are neutralised by the cartoonish extremes of the storytelling. Bullet Train begins with distraught father Kimura (Andrew Koji), a low-level criminal, standing over the hospital bed where his young son lies on life support after being pushed from the roof of a building. Sanada plays the boy’s grandfather, identified only as The Elder, a sternly disapproving man who commands his boozing son to take revenge and restore the family’s honour.

That core story might be mired in the most stereotypical tropes of Asian cinema, but it doesn’t deserve to be so blithely swept aside by Pitt’s character, who goes by the operative name Ladybug, sauntering along the Tokyo streets to a Japanese cover of “Staying Alive.” His mission proves more complicated than expected when it overlaps with the job of two British assassins going by the names Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), whose bickering doesn’t hide their lifelong fraternal bond. Also on board is The Prince (Joey King), a second-generation killer who makes deft use of her innocent schoolgirl appearance to disarm her foes. The Hornet (Zazie Beetz) is an expert in poisons who spends much of the action incognito. One of her victims, The Wolf (rapper Bad Bunny), boards the train to avenge the loss of his wife at their wedding in Mexico.

Ladybug keeps working on his personal growth, empathising with lethal adversaries. But he doles out his share of pain, as does everyone else en route to Kyoto, where the feared Russian underworld kingpin known as The White Death (Michael Shannon) awaits them all with his squad of hitmen.

It’s dispiriting to see so many capable actors put to such poor use. Likewise, the strenuous action, and the jumbled plot mechanisms devised to tie everyone together. At two hours-plus, escape may well be on your mind, unless you’re smart enough to dodge this bullet.

– Compilation