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"BULLET TRAIN"
(2022) (Brad Pitt, Brian Tyree Henry) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Comedy: Various assassins end up on a bullet train as related to a pivotal briefcase and various people connected to that.
PLOT:

Ladybug (BRAD PITT) is an American assassin sent by his handler to retrieve a specific briefcase on one of Japan's bullet trains. Initially unbeknownst to him, he's not the only bad guy on the train, although due to his string of bad luck, he's hoping to turn a new life, including by not taking a gun with him.

Also onboard are British assassins Lemon (BRIAN TYREE HENRY) and Tangerine (AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON) who've been tasked with retrieving that same briefcase along with the son (LOGAN LERMAN) of the most notorious and feared crime boss around, White Death (MICHAEL SHANNON).

While the latter isn't on the train, another assassin, The Prince (JOEY KING) --who's posing as an innocent schoolgirl -- wants White Death dead and has set up one of his employees, Yuichi (YOSHI SUDARSO), to kill him for her. He has boarded the train to find who pushed his son off a building, an act that left the boy in the hospital and his grandfather, The Elder (HIROYUKI SANADA), disappointed in his son.

Thrown into the mix is Mexican assassin The Wolf (BENITO A. MARTINEZ OCASIO) who's there to avenge his bride's murder and yet another assassin, Hornet (ZAZIE BEETZ), whose means of killing is via venom from a very lethal snake that's just so happened to get loose on the train. With Ladybug certain all of this only helps prove his string of bad luck, it's unclear who will make it off the train alive by the time it reaches its final destination.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

I'm guessing that many young people nowadays aren't that impressed with Japan's Shinkansen bullet train or France's TGV despite their fairly impressive cruising speeds compared to what's available in America and most of the rest of the world.

Some of that obviously stems from flying naturally being a far quicker way to get from point A to point B (notwithstanding the airport experience), but also roller coasters seeming far quicker as a visceral, open-air experience.

But mainly it's due to you not truly realizing the speed of such rail transport, especially with the slow roll out of stations. At least that was my experience with the TGV, and while I haven't been on the Japanese version, that came to mind -- natch -- while watching this week's release of -- wait for it -- "Bullet Train."

Based on the Japanese novel "Maria Beetle" by K?tar? Isaka, the film starts slowly and then picks up cinematic velocity as it goes. All to the point that by the time it reaches its highest speed and final destination, you might not notice -- or at least possibly will forgive to one degree or another -- its various issues.

Directed by David Leitch from Zak Olkewicz's screenplay adaptation, the film centers around a bunch of assassins who end up on the titular means of transport, with most interested in a pivotal briefcase.

First up is an American killer (Brad Pitt, having a lot of fun in the role) who's going through an identity crisis of some sort where he's rethinking his vocation. That's mainly due to what he views as a long string of bad luck, and thus he doesn't want to take any sort of weapon along for the job. That's assigned by him to his handler (who we only hear on the phone until the end when the celebrity cameo is revealed, with a few others along the way) who gives him the name "Ladybug."

Also onboard are "twin" assassins Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), two deadly British blokes straight out of a Guy Ritchie flick who need their own prequel spin-off movie. They currently possess that briefcase along with the adult son of a feared mobster known as White Death (Michael Shannon). While not aboard the train, he's the target of another killer (Joey King) who's posing as an innocent schoolgirl but is in the middle of setting up one of Mr. Death's employees (Yoshi Sudarso) to off him for reasons to be revealed in the third act.

Little do any of them realize that the blackmailed man's father (Hiroyuki Sanada) also has a score to settle with WD, while other killers -- Benito A. Martinez Ocasio as a recent groom seeking revenge and Zazie Beetz as a woman who kills via injections of lethal snake venom -- also board the train and complicate matters for our little Ladybug who simply wants to snatch the briefcase and get off the train before his bad luck worsens.

There's no denying that things get ever more ridiculous as they play out over the course of the pic's just over two-hour running time, and everything feels like a mashup of Leitch's previous offerings (such as "Deadpool 2" and "Hobbs & Shaw") along with the aforementioned Ritchie flicks and a definite Quentin Tarantino vibe.

All of that might end up being too much for some viewers, but despite its issues and the overall derivative nature of the material, I enjoyed the ride, mainly stemming from the decent fight and action sequences, the lathering of comedic elements on top of that, and Pitt's approach at playing his character. Bumpy at times but otherwise entertaining, "Bullet Train" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Posted August 5, 2022


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