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  • Debbie Cerda

Off the Rails with the BULLET TRAIN

Imagine combining equal parts of cult classics including the mystery of Murder on the Orient Express (1974), the comedy of Silver Streak (1976), the action of John Wick (2014) and add an ample serving of the chase and train sequences of The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008). The result? Bullet Train is a non-stop exhilarating ride on a Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kyoto through modern-day Japan, directed by David Leitch and with a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz based on the book by Kotaro Isaka.

In Bullet Train, Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, a hitman seeking internal serenity after one too many gigs gone off the rails. His handler Maria Beetle has assigned him to collect a briefcase aboard a bullet train after the original contractor Carver (Ryan Reynolds in an uncredited role) calls out sick.

What Ladybug is unaware of is that there happen to be other killers onboard and on assignment: hitmen brothers Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), as well The Prince (Joey King), who dresses in the Japanese kogal style. Tangerine and Lemon are under contract with White Death (Michael Shannon), head of the world's largest cartel within the Japanese underworld, to transport his son and a briefcase full of ransom money to Kyoto.

Bullet Train becomes more complicated with revenge subplots as other assassins board the train – Yuichi Kimura, who is blackmailed into supporting The Prince with her mission, and The Wolf, who is seeking revenge for the death of his wife and family. Yet more assassins board the train, as the body count stacks up. Still following? Oh, there’s also a lethal snake on the train.

Ladybug must face off with these lethal adversaries from around the globe whose agendas and fates turn out to be intertwined off. Brad Pitt brings a comedic flair and charm to his character who is desperately trying to accomplish his mission and get some rest.

The ensemble cast provide stellar performances which require well-timed dialogue and physicality. The banter between Tangerine and Lemon is quite believable, especially as we learn of their childhood via flashbacks. The cinematography and fight choreography is well-executed, and the visual elements highlight neon bright colors to create a slick atmosphere. As unbelievable as many of the action sequences are, they are still quite enjoyable for action fans.

As trivial as it may seem for such a stylized action film as Bullet Train, a major flaw that I had in the plotting is the absence of train staff and other passengers. I find it extremely difficult to believe that a bullet train between Tokyo to Kyoto would ever appear nearly empty as the cars are in this film.

I'd recommend watching cult favorite Train to Busan (2016) for a more "realistic" fictionalized tale of survival on a high speed train against multiple adversaries.


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