Written by Weng Leong
Bullet Train is fun, action-packed and bloody. Its action sequences remind us of the films of Jackie Chan, where the fighting is goofy yet well-choreographed, with characters using items on hand to create slapstick and acrobatic stunts—you’re guaranteed to laugh your a** off.
Brad Pitt is brilliant as Ladybug, the “main” character in the film (we’ll get into that): The humour from his character is compatible with the goofy stuff happening around him. Aaron Taylor-Johnson also puts up a great performance as Tangerine, a humorous English bloke who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to get the job done.
Bullet Train’s storyline is witty but also easy to understand. The self-embracing of the story’s ridiculousness makes it distinct in the sea of action movies and all the more joyful to watch. Everyone seems to have an equal workload in pushing the story forward and the backstory of the vengeful villain really holds enough weight for some sort of sympathy to grow in the viewers.
Bullet Train is also overly funny, though filled with some jokes which may be hit or miss. The randomness in the movie draws chuckles from the audience who soon enough become confused. For instance, Brian Tyree Henry’s character, Lemon, has a weird obsession with ‘Thomas and Friends’, but the flashback to his childhood shows him watching football instead. This frayed connection between the movie’s humour and emotions for its characters shows up often—one emotionally heavy scene has its payoff stunted because we simply don’t relate to the character enough.
Sandra Bullock plays Maria Beetle, Ladybug’s handler, whom we regularly hear, but don’t see throughout the movie. Her only appearance is a 10-second cameo that does not add value to the film. Her sudden appearance is awkward and leaves viewers more confused than surprised.
Other actresses starring in the film are Joey King (of the infamous ‘Kissing Booth’ movies) and Karen Fukuhara. King plays The Prince, whose potential as an interesting character goes out of the window as her character suddenly disappears in the third act. Meanwhile, Fukuhara has a very minor role as a train attendant with only a handful of lines in the film. It would have been more entertaining if these two actresses got more screen time—well, they are already on the train after all.
Every aspect of the movie seems to revolve around the idea of having fun: from suitcase fighting to profiling characters based on characters from ‘Thomas and Friends’. Interviews also showed how the cast were encouraged to insert whatever impromptu jokes they could think of into each scene.
So, amidst the flood of franchises, IPs and Cinematic Universes come a few movies that are made by artists who have full creative control, where the entire project is fun, and give a glimmer of hope for the future of cinema. I laughed, cringed, but had a very enjoyable time watching this movie.
This review is published as part of *SCAPE’s Film Critics Lab: A Writing Mentorship Programme.
About the Author: Weng Leong prides himself in having watched Parasite before it won Best Picture in 2020 and will gladly mansplain to anyone why Memories of Murder is Bong Joon-Ho’s best film. He is most often seen talking about film and politics instead of actually studying at SMU.
About the Movie:
Directed by: David Leitch
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, and Sandra Bullock
Duration: 2h 7m
Subtitles: English or Chinese subtitles
In Bullet Train, Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, an unlucky assassin determined to do his job peacefully after one too many gigs gone off the rails. Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug’s latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe—all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives—on the world’s fastest train. The end of the line is just the beginning in this non-stop thrill-ride through modern-day Japan from David Leitch, the director of Deadpool 2.
Catch it in all theatres now.