Bullet Train has been busy flooding my feeds with trailers for this highly anticipated action film starring Brad Pitt. So much so, that I think I saw most of the movie before I sat down in the theater. Turns out that’s true.
An unlucky assassin named Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is trying to pull back from his career to work on self growth. He is given what seems like an easy “smash and grab” job on the bullet train. But of course, he encounters obstacles (ie other assassins) that complicate his efforts. His handler, the voice of Sandra Bullock, guides him through the mission, directing and encouraging his next steps. She also lends an ear as he is talking through discovery of a ‘smart’ toilet and find my phone app, all while breaching an existential crisis.
Some of the ensemble characters have potential to be great. Take the twins, Tangerine and Lemon, (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry), who are on their own separate mission. They are escorting someone’s son along with the briefcase (yes, the same one Ladybug is after) when things start to go wrong. The pair have history and a genuine connection evident in their banter. Lemon’s obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine keeps us annoyed, although alert to other passengers.
But the dialogue really stings. It just isn’t good. And there’s a lot of it – especially during fight scenes. Ladybug’s selection of curse words is amusing, but the delivery of most of the script is baffling. It feels like they could have improvised off book with better results, if they knew their characters more.
The action is sloppy hand to hand combat most of the time, littered with obtuse comments that are trying to be funny. For some reason there’s no security on this bullet train. Only one other passenger seems annoyed by some loud voices. Then there’s a snake. Oh, and several branded water bottles along with an anime themed cart featuring a suspicious dancing mascot. Add to that endless flashbacks to stories spawning vengeance that try to explain how all of these people have come together. These hints don’t actually do that – rather, we comb through countless assassins before the aha moment is shoved down our throats.
Joey King (Prince) is actually quite convincing with her British accent, perfect posture, and hidden agenda. However, she somehow still feels emotionally disconnected even after revealing her role. Then out of nowhere comes some other chick who’s been there the whole time and is mad about her snake. What?
There’s a bit of salvation in the last 20 minutes or so, when the music and the action finally seem to pair up, and pace along with the high speed of the bullet train. What was achingly ridiculous before becomes something we can all laugh at. Sure, some guy can run and jump onto the bullet train – right? The cameos rapid fire in offering some smiles of acknowledgement, even some laughs – showing that they had fun with this. People will go see this because of the star power; and they might even like it more than me.