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Bullet Train Film Review: Brad Pitt’s Return to Action

Brad Pitt finds himself in numerous unlucky situations in his newest action comedy Bullet Train, which makes for a chaotic yet exhilarating time. 

Oh Brad, how far we have come. In recent film history, only a select few actors have been able to show audiences the dictionary definition of what a movie star is, and Brad Pitt is one of them. Lately, Pitt has taken a back seat approach in his films, focusing more on the producing side of things, and Bullet Train is his first blockbuster where he is the sole lead since Fury in 2014. And what a movie to come back with! 

Bullet Train centers on an assassin named Ladybug (Brad Pitt), who has found inner peace and is only supposed to do “snatch and grab” jobs instead of what an assassin traditionally does. On his latest mission, he is instructed via phone by a woman named Maria (Sandra Bullock, of The Lost City) to simply find a briefcase and take it off the train. Unlucky for Ladybug, he is on the same train with four other assassins, each having names as quirky as his own and whose jobs intertwine with his, causing anarchy between all five of them and more. 

Among the other important characters that are on this train are Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry, of Eternals) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, of Tenet), who are also assassins and who are also trying to get that same  the briefcase, which they’re meant to bring to a man known as The White Death (Michael Shannon, of Knives Out), who is the leader of a large criminal organization. On top of this, both of these assassins are also instructed to bring The White Death’s son (Logan Lerman, of Shirley), who’s also on the train, back to his father, who will be at the end of the train route in Kyoto.

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Brad Pitt and Bad Bunny star in Bullet Train. (Scott Garfield, Sony Pictures Entertainment)

We also have Prince (Joey King, of The Kissing Booth 2), a British assassin posing as a schoolgirl who has manipulated Japanese assassin Kimura (Andrew Koji, of Snake Eyes) to board the same train in hopes of getting him to kill The White Death once they get to Kyoto. It is also important to mention Kimura’s father, The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), who is an ex-Japanese assassin and remains in contact with his son during the film. The other two deadly people on the train are American assassin Hornet (Zazie Beetz, of Joker) and Mexican assassin Wolf (Bad Bunny), who is looking to kill the person who murdered his wife. As each of their paths cross in different ways, there is plenty of violence, comedy, and plot twists to go around to sustain audiences for the film’s two-hour runtime. 

Even with all of these characters that are seen during this action comedy, it is hard to care about almost any of them. One of the biggest issues with action movies, in general, is the fact that it is hard to feel thrilled or on the edge of your seat if there is no one that you care about enough to want to see them make it to the end. This is especially hard in action comedies because, since there are so many jokes, it gets hard to really get to know any of the characters to the point where you start to care about them. Bullet Train has this exact issue. The movie is so fast-paced and so many different characters are introduced with vastly different motivations that everything just feels way too low stakes for the violence that is happening around them. This hurts the film, especially towards the end, where there are more emotional moments and bigger character deaths, but you’ll find yourself feeling no emotion toward them, just waiting for the next joke. 

On top of this, the film is aggressively comedy-focused, and it also doesn’t  make a clear statement on its main themes. During the film’s runtime, almost every single character says something about luck and/or fate. Ladybug, for example, believes that he is truly unlucky, which is his excuse for being in his tough situations. Others, such as Prince, believe that it is almost just their luck that has kept them so successful. With so many different views on luck and fate and how it affects someone’s actions, there isn’t really a strong perspective that the film has on this topic by the time the credits roll. There didn’t have to be a definition of what luck really is or anything philosophical, but since it is mentioned so many times, it feels like a missed opportunity to not have a concussion for this side plot of sorts. 

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Bryan Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star in Bullet Train. (Scott Garfield, Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Let’s get to the best part of the movie: the cast. The film centers around ten different characters and, while there are certainly some highlights from this bunch, there are no weak links. From those who only have five minutes of screen time to the main villains of the film, everyone goes headfirst into these performances, and that is the main reason why this film is so much fun. Without the cast’s chemistry and over-the-top performances, the tone of this film would have been way too all over the place and taken out most of the entertainment value that this Bullet Train has. 

Brad Pitt is great in this, as always. Just like the character he plays, he has been in the business for a while, and this makes his performance more believable, with his very mellow and zen personality bringing the comedic value of the movie up a lot more. Even with Pitt on his A-game, the best characters in this film are easily Lemon and Tangerine. Their brotherly bond is equally hilarious and wholesome, and every time they are on screen there is no doubt that you will be laughing in less than 30 seconds, mainly due to the intense chemistry Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have. 

At the end of the day, with some really thrilling directing from David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) and fun performances, there is still a lot to enjoy with this one. Bullet Train isn’t trying to be a high-brow action comedy that reinvents the way we see this genre, but just a nonstop train ride with jokes, and loads of violence. Even if it feels too low stakes at times, if you are itching for Brad Pitt’s comeback film with hopes that it will deliver on the exciting time that the trailer promised, this is the right train to hop on. 

Bullet Train was released globally in theaters on August 3, 2022.

Bullet Train: Trailer (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
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