Movie review: 'Bullet Train' takes you on a chaotic fun ride

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 04 2022 06:18 AM

Brad Pitt as Ladybug in 'Bullet Train.' Handout
Brad Pitt as Ladybug in 'Bullet Train.' Handout

A seasoned mercenary assassin code-named Ladybug was sent on an "easy" mission to retrieve a briefcase of money on a bullet train running from Tokyo to Kyoto. However, there turned out to more killers on the train also after the same briefcase: British twins Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Bryan Tyree Henry), who were escorting The Son (Logan Lehrman) back to his gang lord father The White Death (Michael Shannon).

Meanwhile, school-girl-like British assassin The Prince (Joey King) had coerced Japanese assassin Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji) to come with her for a kill. Kimura's father The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada) had also come on board, looking for his son. Also along for the ride were a Mexican assassin The Wolf (Benito A Martínez Ocasio a.k.a. current Billboard chart king Bad Bunny) and an American assassin Hornet (Zazie Beetz) with their own agenda.

The big name cast was so fun to watch, all playing ruthless killers whose paths all intersect on this bullet train. Brad Pitt looked harried here as the existentially-challenged Ladybug who can't seem to get a lucky break in his life. Everyone had a charm of their own -- dashing Aaron Taylor-Johnson and comical Bryan Tyree Henry doing an unlikely tag team, innocent-looking Joey King playing against type, Andrew Koji channeling a broody Robert Pattinson. 

For me, the true star in this ensemble is none other than veteran Japanese actor and martial artist Hiroyuki Sanada. His screen presence and star charisma matched that of Brad Pitt himself, if not even surpassed it. Every time his character The Elder appears onscreen with that kick-ass scar on his cheek, your attention simply gravitated towards him. His fight scenes with his samurai sword were easily the most awesome out there. 

Practically the whole film was set inside the titular bullet train, but the production designer made sure each car had its own unique personality. The lively, colorful and idiosyncratic Japanese cultural landscape played a major role in the vibrancy of the film's total vibe. The final 30 minutes or so was a spectacular show of CGI effects of everything and anything that could happen to a speeding train, inside and out. 

Director David Leitch (who had been Pitt's stunt double in films like "Fight Club" and "Troy") was responsible for the Rated R action-comedy "Deadpool 2" (where Pitt had a cameo). He brought in the same energy and humor here, with more characters to play around with and more blood to splatter around. 

This Tarantino-esque film had so much chaos in it, yet all this was skillfully calculated so precisely. A poisonous snake and number of A-list guest stars making surprise appearances added a lot more fun amidst the mayhem. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."