“Bullet Train” is a fast-moving, action-packed, darkly cynical romp along the rails with assassins, trouble-makers, and one mean conductor. The Japanese high-speed rail is the place for an all-out brawl, and a comedy of errors. It is superbly absurd, as suitcases get swapped, hit-men get hurt (and worse) and the general chaos extends past the end of the line. All Aboard!
A trained assassin and killer has a new code name: Ladybug (played by Brad Pitt). He is given this code name by his handler, named Maria Beetle (played by Sandra Bullock). Ladybug has had a string of bad luck and wants to start with small jobs after being out of the game in therapy.
Ladybug gets a perfect task from Maria, just a simple swipe of a briefcase off a Japanese train. The suitcase is ransom money for a kidnapped kid of a huge criminal organization. The White Death (played by Michael Shannon) wants his kid back, and will pay for the return of The Son (played by Logan Lerman).
Ladybug doesn’t know that The Son is being brought back to Mr. Death by two other deadly killers. They are the ‘twins’, named Lemon (played by Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson). But there are others out for Mr. Death. Notably, The Prince (played by Joey King) a woman with her own personal motives to kill the criminal boss.
But don’t forget about Kimura (played by Andrew Koji). He is an underworld killer, who is looking for revenge on the attack against his son. But then again, there is The Elder (played by Hiroyuki Sanada). He is the father of Kimura, but he has personal reasons to see Mr. Death dead…
Quite a lot for Ladybug to take in, you see. He is only on board to snatch a suitcase full of cash. But that does not include the personal vendetta that Ladybug’s old target has for him. The Wolf (played by Benito Martínez Ocasio – AKA Bad Bunny), who is a cartel killer from Mexico, wants a personal rumble with Ladybug.
Wait! There’s more, you say? Sure, there is a secret assassin who goes by the name Hornet (played by Zazie Beetz). She has a specialty of murder by poisonous snake venom. Oh, and yes — there happens to be a poisonous snake that escaped into the high-speed rail cars. “Snake, on a Train”?
The cast of wacky criminals and killers are ready to drop you in your tracks — the railroad tracks, that is. Ladybug has his therapy ideas of non-violent action and communication severely tested. Tangerine and Lemon find that the things for which they were hired to do are not going too well.
The White Death hired them to deliver The Son, and the suitcase. Not particularly in that order, or any specific condition. Good thing, because some poison expert has taken out The Son. Ladybug eventually has to take on just about all of the other killers at some point. Plus he will do that in the most hilarious manner ever…
Between rounds of mayhem with the other criminal killers, Ladybug spends time on the phone with his handler, Maria Beetle. She is calm and reassuring, but tells Ladybug that he needs to get that suitcase and make a quick exit. There is only one thing that prevents Ladybug from getting that done. Everything! All the killers with dubious motives, and even the mean conductor – they are all on the lookout for Ladybug.
When the train finally reaches the stop on the route, which of these will be left standing? Will the suitcase full of dough turn out to contain something more? Will the snake on the train ever be found? Will Ladybug find that his string of bad luck has ended? Or has it just followed him on the train in the First Class section?
“Bullet Train” is a masterful combination of violent action and laugh-out-loud comedy. The sequences of action and fighting are done with a real flair for movement. Even in close quarters, the planning and direction are great to watch. The acting is top-notch. Brad Pitt is really in the zone, playing a hit-man with a new outlook on life. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry work perfectly off each other. They deserve a spin-off with the Tangerine and Lemon characters.
Of course, it does have minor issues. The ending wants to ‘go big’, but the actual results is that the movie goes off the rails. There are a couple of spots where the Special Effects start to look a little bit sub-par. Some characters have less of a compelling story line than others. But there are a few Big Name Cameo scenes, and they are incredibly well-placed.
“Bullet Train” is the movie where the creators give it their best ‘shot’ to make a ‘high-caliber’ and entertaining flick that won’t go ‘off the rails’. Rising quickly on the summer charts, Number One with a Bullet… Train.
Directed by: David Leitch
Screenplay by: Zak Olkewicz
Based on: Maria Beetle (published in English as Bullet Train) by Kotaro Isaka
Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito Martínez Ocasio, Sandra Bullock
Cinematography: Jonathan Sela
Edited by: Elisabet Ronaldsdottir
Music by: Dominic Lewis
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Release date: August 5, 2022
Length: 126 minutes
MPAA rating: R for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality
Genre: Action, Black Comedy