So…every year I try to either book the actual day of my birthday off work, or the day before, as a little treat for myself. Well, I booked today (Friday) off weeks ago since tomorrow is…well…you know. Despite the undeniable realty that, if I’m lucky, I’m now officially at the mid-point in a healthy human’s lifespan (and all the sobering revelations that it seems to bring), I said “Fuck it!…I wanna see a movie!”
It just so happened that today is ALSO the release date for the next slice of violently competent entertainment from stuntman-turned-director David Leitch, who cut his teeth on fan-favorite John Wick (2014), before moving on to Summer Tentpole Fare such as Atomic Blonde (2017) and Deadpool 2 (2018), both of which I quite enjoyed. So as you can see, the man has a short but accomplished pedigree when it comes to legitimately cool action, so when I heard that he was teaming up with Brad Pitt (Se7en), and a whole smorgasbord of wacky characters, to take us on a harrowing and violent adventure that happens to take place on….*drumroll*…a bullet train tearing across Japan, I was intrigued.
The first trailer gave me serious Smokin Aces (2006) vibes and that is just fine with me. I’m an unapologetic fan of that crazy, blood-splattered flick and can almost guarantee that more comparisons will emerge as we press on.
Apologies in advance.
So, on a hot summer Friday, I slipped into the cool, darkened confines of our small town’s modest multi-plex with a popcorn and drink and let the Bullet Train roll over me!
The flick immediately introduces us to ‘Ladybug’ (Brad Pitt), a contract snatch-and-grabber / investigator as he contacts his handler ‘Marie’ (Sandra Bullock) for key details of the task he’s taking on after a soul-searching absence from ‘the game’. He’s instructed to simply get on a certain train, find a certain briefcase and exit at the next station for instructions. Simple enough…until it’s not. The briefcase is the key fixture in a kidnap / hostage scheme and, unknown to ‘Ladybug’, other lethal parties have their own parts to play in the unfolding drama and are scattered throughout the train and the various stations that it stops at. Hilarious and hideous hijinks ensue!
I thought Bullet Train was great and turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered. I needed a fast-moving action movie that rode a consistent line between near cartoonish absurdity and blood-soaked, over the top violence…just like Smokin Aces!
And thankfully…that’s exactly what I got.
One of the first things the viewer will notice is the Style. Leitch had made his flick stylish as hell! Granted, the same can be said of his previous entries but this one just drips of it. I understand that this project started life as either a book or a graphic novel (too lazy to look it up…sue me) and each scene is shot and lit in a way that makes it feel like it should be oozing off the pages of a comic book. If nothing else, this movie looks great from beginning to end.
But luckily…there’s more!
The cast is solid, with the always charming Brad Pitt turning up as though his stoner character ‘Floyd’, from the near perfect True Romance (1993), was scooped up by some covert spy agency and now we’re catching up with him years down the road. I really appreciated how, while he did occasionally come off like a bumbling moron, he could also kick some serious ass when the chips were down. I also appreciated how each character had their own fighting style and ‘Ladybug’ was surprisingly good at using the environment and props to his advantage. A couple other stand-outs were Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) and Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis) as a pair of contracted hit-man types who are tasked with delivering a dangerous gangster’s son and safeguarding the targeted briefcase. Their constant bickering back and forth was often hilarious (Thomas the Tank Engine? WTF?), but there was also a brotherly bond between them that was strangely endearing and actually had an impact on certain actions taken later in the story. We also get Chloe Grace Moretz clone Joey King (The Conjuring) as a stone-cold psycho named ‘Prince’ posing as an innocent schoolgirl, to lethal effect. Everyone else who comes to support this roster brings their A-game, committing to the over-the-top absurdity of the story and characters.
With this one, I could see a lot of influence, both visually and in tone, from renowned directors like Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Joe Carnahan (Smokin Aces), Zack Snyder (Sucker Punch), Guy Ritchie (Snatch) and, dare I say it, Michael Bay (Pain and Gain)…and that was just fine with me because no matter what the career ups and downs of each of those named, they all have mastered their own, distinct styles and I could see Leitch applying those influences, while also crafting his own. There’s some really creative storytelling in the playful way the narrative has been structured and I was all for it. Oh, and like those other dudes, Leitch has also not pussy’d out on the ultra-violence and spoons it out thick and fun, with no skimping on the gore and creativity. There are some shockingly inventive (and messy) kills that punctuated the 2 hour 6 minute run-time and I loved it, sick fuck that I am.
All in all, Bullet Train was just what I was looking for and to anyone who digs off-kilter action movies that play by their own rules while telling a fun story populated by wacky and dangerous characters, then this is a title for you!
While many of the crazy fight scenes and out-of-control train action WAS sweet on the Big Screen, I think the casual viewer will be perfectly happy seeing this in the confines of their own home, when it hits Home Market or Hard Copy release. There’s very little in the way of Negatives that come to mind…a slight trim on the run-time could’ve been good but nothing leaps out as being an unforgivable trespass. So based on that, I think most casual viewers, in conjunction with dedicated Action / Thriller fans, will have a good time with Bullet Train.
Don’t miss this train!