Bullet Train

Year: 2022
Production Co: 87North
Studio: Columbia
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Zak Olkewicz/Kôtarô Isaka
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Sandra Bullock, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Logan Lerman, Zazie Beets

I obviously don't know David Leitch personally, but after a few of his films as a director I think we can get a fair inkling of his sensibility. And if he was a movie, Bullet Train would be it. It's free-wheeling, colourful, bloody, overstuffed with ideas, characters, colours and movement and it's a subtle as a sledgehammer. He does a lot of things here but nuance ain't one of them.

Brad Pitt is a shlubby unnamed professional assassin his handler (a lot of viewers probably placed her voice on the phone but you find out right at the end it's Sandra Bullock) calls Ladybug as he embarks on a new mission in Tokyo. He waxes lyrical to her about finding a long-desired peace in his life thanks to therapy and various coping strategies - the comic juxtaposition being a guy who wants to find inner calm while killing people for a living.

But eventually it's time to get moving, so he boards the titular train bound out of Tokyo, his job merely to lift a suitcase and deliver it to a local crime lord. Unknown to Ladybug, he's joined by a rogue's gallery of other killers and lowlives with their own agendas.

A desperate Japanese father is trying to find out who tried to kill his son. There's a cute, sweet-talking, anime fan ingénue (Joey King) who carries a big stick. A fearsome Latino hitman. A cockney duo (Aaron Taylor Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry) also working for the crime lord as they ferry his wayward son back to him, played like Laurel and Hardy meet Quentin Tarantino. There's also a venomous snake that's been stolen from a Tokyo zoo, a character in a football mascot costume and a dizzying array of others.

Their goals are all crisscrossing and conflicting, leading to ever-increasing levels of comic hijinks and carnage as the whole company chase each other, fight, kill, swear and crack wise up and down the train on its journey.

It all culminates with a fateful meeting between the crime lord (Michael Shannon) and the grandfather of the hospitalised child, himself a former gangster (Hiroyuki Sanada) meeting at the end of the line ti unleash a blistering wave of violent gunplay that sees retribution meted out to all comers as the train careers off the tracks and crashes.

The slo-mo sequence of Ladybug flying forward through the tornado of destruction around is emblematic of the entire film – Leitch and his screenwriter Zak Olkewicz throw everything the arts of both stunts and VFX can manage at the screen. There are a few cheap laughs and thrills, but it's all so bloated and hammy it's all pretty forgettable.

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