‘Bullet Train’ delivers speedy thrills and dynamic action


Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com

Brad Pitt fights for his life and job in this action-packed thriller.

What’s the worst train ride you’ve been on? Did it involve gun fights, poisonings and convoluted plots? If not, watch “Bullet Train” for that experience. “Bullet Train,” released theatrically on Aug. 5, was recently added to the internet streaming service Netflix. The movie stars Brad Pitt as Ladybug, an ironically unlucky hitman who wants to move past killing people. His latest job, retrieving a silver briefcase from a bullet train in Japan, is complicated by a cadre of other hitmen who have also boarded the train for jobs of their own. Among them is Yuichi Kimura, played by Andrew Koji, who boards the train seeking the person responsible for nearly killing his son.

The movie begins slowly, setting up both Ladybug and Yuichi’s path to boarding the bullet train. However, once “Bullet Train” gets going, it maintains a breakneck pace with some stylish fights, larger-than-life hitmen and a mean sense of humor.

Some highlights are Ladybug’s various fights, which play out like classic Hong Kong set pieces as he attempts to not actually kill his aggressors. His reluctance to kill is a consistent thread throughout the movie, largely played for laughs as he inevitably ends up killing anyway, whether on purpose or by accident. This ties into his luck, or lack thereof. Still, as the saying goes, “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has protected you from.”

Next to Ladybug, Yuichi’s role in the story is much more serious, and he tends to carry the less comical side of the movie. It’s worth mentioning that while the movie is definitely willing to have fun, it’s not exactly bloodless. “Bullet Train” feels similar to Quentin Tarintino’s work, but with a more playful attitude.

This divide works well for the movie. Pitt gets to flex his comedic chops more, while Koji provides a good basis for the movie’s subplot on the criminal underworld. The two storylines do eventually come together, and while Pitt stands out at that point, he doesn’t particularly take away from the resolution of the more serious plotline.

The movie also features a well-done soundtrack, leveraging some fun Japanese covers of American hits for some of its segments, such as “Staying Alive.” This works especially well for one segment of the movie that I won’t spoil in this review, but it’s one of the funnier jokes in the film and a very creative misdirection. This movie also felt like a wonderful answer to a lot of the more bloodless superhero movies of this year and the last couple of years; it’s not overly violent, but it has enough violence to feel believable. This contrasts well with the out-there plot and premise.

I also think this movie could be fairly compared to the “John Wick” series, with the addendum that there’s a lot more character study going on throughout it than in those movies, as well as a handful of climactic fights instead of a nonstop assault. The slightly slower pace isn’t a deal breaker, but it does bear mentioning.

I strongly recommend “Bullet Train” as a fun movie to watch on a night in, especially over the holidays. You’ll enjoy it, and your parents probably will too.