Bullet Train (2022)

Bullet Train
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Zak Olkewicz
Based on: Kōtarō Isaka‘s novel
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock, Bad Bunny, Logan Lerman, Zazie Beetz, Masi Oka, Karen Fukuhara, Channing Tatum, Ryan Reynolds
Seen on: 12.8.2022

Content Note: whitewashing

Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is an assassin who as recently taken some time off after a bit of an existential crisis because he is so unlucky. But after some therapy, he is ready to get back into the game. His first job seems simple enough: just snatch a suitcase from the high-speed bullet train and get off the next station. But it turns out that he is not the only assassin on the train. Duo Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) also have a mission to fulfill on the train. And there is The Prince (Joey King) who lured Kimura (Andrew Koji) on the train for her own plans. As all of their plans collide, things become chaotic. Ladybug may yet regret his return to work.

Bullet Train is a fast-paced, entertaining film despite some problems. If you like action comedies with a touch of gore, you’ll have a good time with this one.

The film poster showing the main characters arranged along a Japanese dragon.

To get the biggest problem out of the way at first: It is not good that this movie based on a Japanese book by a Japanese author starring Japanese characters is populated with white and other non-Japanese people. And when I say people, I mostly mean men. There is one Japanese woman in the entire movie (apart from in the background) and she barely has a role to speak of. There are four women in total who get to say words on screen, three of them in barely anything more than a cameo appearance. There are two Japanese men in the film who have more extensive roles, one of whom is the wise elder. And damn, if Sanada isn’t hot while doing that, but it seems indicative that this is one role where Japanese people are still allowed to be present in the film (him and his son). It is not a good look, to say the least (and not helped by the fact that the film is filled with fridged women).

But apart from the utter white maleness of the overall film (also present in the mean-spirited ending that The Prince gets), and the fact that Brad Pitt is apparently turning out to be an abusive ass, I really had a good time with it. It made me laugh out loud more than once, and the various well-paced twist and turns were really fun to watch unfold.

Ladybug (Brad Pitt) walking carefully through the train, clutching a suitcase.

Ladybug and his whole (extremely debatable) unlucky shtick were a really nice conceit that the film doesn’t overstretch for the most part, but knows when to amp up. Lemon and Tangerine were scene stealers (and that is only in part because of Taylor-Johnson’s most excellent suit), Tyree and Taylor-Johnson having nice chemistry and ultimately giving us the heart of the film – which was surprising to me. I expected them to be more comedic relief.

The action scenes were nicely done, though they did lack a certain panache for the most part to become interesting in themselves. They simply weren’t paid as much attention as the humor was in the film. Which is quite alright, but feels like a wasted chance. Not all of the humor flies, but that doesn’t mean that the exaggertated cartoonishness of the film doesn’t have its charm.

Lemon (Bryan Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) giving instructions.

Summarizing: highly entertaining.

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