Bullet Train Is An Action-Packed, Over-The-Top Anime That’s Brought To Life

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Bullet Train is the latest film by director David Leitch, best known for movies like John Wick, Deadpool 2, and Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw (check out my review of that here). If there’s one thing he can do well, that’s action, action and more action. In Bullet Train, he manages to add some stylistic flair and comedy to his action, culminating in a fun movie that’s perhaps a bit too long.

Train Assassins

Bullet Train is a movie about Brad Pitt playing Ladybug, an assassin/mercenary. He steals a briefcase that contains something from Tokyo’s train station to get to his job. As he meets other assassins, such as Tangerine (Aaron Taylor Johnson), Lemon (Brian Tye Henry), and many others, chaos ensues. Bullet Train is the kind of movie that’s best to experience all the surprises and twists firsthand without prior knowledge, so there’s really no need to know anything other than what I’ve described. That said, this movie boasts an all-star cast with lots of familiar names, but their roles are awesome reveals in the movie itself, and half the fun is when they pop up, including brief cameos from guest stars who you’d immediately recognise at first glance.

Bullet Train is a wild ride, but the film’s highlight is its action scenes and comedy. Director David Leitch has taken everything he’s learned from his previous movies and applied them here. The action is kinetic, dynamic, brutal, and violent, but most importantly of all, they’re also clear. There’s no frustrating shaky cam here or choppy cuts. David Leitch is a master at making his action stylish, brutal, and fresh. It doesn’t look or feel formulaic, which is refreshing considering that action movies tend to start blending into each other when the action is the same old beats.

In terms of tone and style, this movie is reminiscent of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino. That’s not a bad thing either, because David Leitch doesn’t just copy them; he infuses them with his own signature sauce. While the action is bloody and violent, it feels very much like a Tarantino movie. There are stabbings, chopped heads, and other brutalities. The comedy feels almost like a Guy Ritchie movie. Each of the main characters in Bullet Train is introduced with a Guy Ritchie-esque intro sequence.

Brad Pitt is undoubtedly the film’s most beloved star. He proves it again and again. I love seeing Brad Pitt in roles like these, where he’s clearly having fun and having the time of his life. Brad Pitt’s Ladybug isn’t some brooding overly-serious assassin type with a dark past like Keanu Reeves’ John Wick. He’s a chill dude who just wants to get the job done, and he’s funny as heck, but he’s a badass dude who can still kick ass with the best of them. One of the highlights of the movie is the relationship between Tangerine and Lemon (Aaron Taylor Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry). The movie is a success because of their comedy skills. The one who stands out for me is Aaron-Taylor Johnson, who brings another performance similar to that like his turn in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen.

The movie isn’t perfect though. Depending on how you like this type of comedy, jokes can be a bit hit-and miss and not all of them work. Bullet Train also wastes the potential of its Japanese actors and actresses, including Hiroyuki Sanada and Karen Fukuhara, who don’t really get much to do for most of the movie (the latter especially, who pretty much gets a minor role doing nothing significant at all). Bullet Train’s greatest problem is likely its length or duration. It’s more than two hours long, and the middle part of the movie feels draggy as a result, which makes the pacing suffer. Thankfully though, the bonkers third act is one that’s worth waiting for.

Murder at the Tokyo Express

Ultimately, Bullet Train is a movie that doesn’t take itself very seriously at all. It revels in its almost-cartoonish anime-like quality of action comedy (hence the headline of this review), which makes this movie that’s plenty of fun. It’s not quite fully Tarantino or Guy Ritchie, but it’s David Leitch doing what he knows best; over-the-top action that’s a bit more fluff than substance. And that’s OK.

FINAL SCORE 60/100

Sony Pictures Malaysia provided us with an early screening of Bullet Train. Bullet TrainIt will be shown in Malaysian cinemas starting on 4 August 2022.

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