Bullet Train (2022)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/7/22
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Zazie Beetz, cameos by Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Ryan Reynolds

Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is an operative who is assigned to steal a briefcase on a Japanese bullet train. Or rather, he's replacing the guy who was originally assigned to the job because he called in sick. What Ladybug doesn't know is that there are six assassins on the train who are also interested in the briefcase, and it doesn't take long for all hell to break loose in a ridiculous sequence of far-fetched coincidences and mistaken identities.

Despite its star-studded and very capable cast, "Bullet Train" is not a good movie. Imagine director David Leitch saying "I want to make another movie like "Atomic Blonde" (2017), only more convoluted," and Brad Pitt saying "And while we're at it, let's make it a comedy!" Interestingly, the film fails in the same way that "Atomic Blonde" did, including a spoiler-filled trailer that's more entertaining than the film as a whole. What Leitch doesn't realize is that "convoluted" doesn't equate to "clever," and the plot's outlandish twists and intricacies don't do the story any favors. In fact, the narrative confusion just leaves the viewer stranded, leaving the action sequences to bear all the responsibility for keeping the viewer informed and engaged. Admittedly, the over-the-top action scenes are exciting and well-executed, although invasive editing tends to spoil some of the fun. Unfortunately, the tedious and inane banter in between fight scenes ruins the rhythm and momentum, and attempts at cleverness end up killing the vibe.

While the film is centered around Brad Pitt's character, the real star is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays one of the sadistic and psychotic killers on the train. His intense presence and rugged charisma dominate the screen, and you simply can't take your eyes off of him. Benito A Martínez Ocasio also makes a strong impression as a devastatingly handsome, but short-lived hitman. Hiroyuki Sanada always adds a touch of class to everything he's in, and it's a treat to see him in action. Unfortunately, the female assassins (Joey King and Zazie Beetz) are disappointing and not given much to work with, but they're still fun to watch. Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds show up in a couple of amusing, but completely unnecessary cameos that are little more than in-jokes.

In fact, most of the film feels unnecessary, which makes it tedious to watch. Still, it's an attractive and well-made film for the most part, and is full of color and style. Regrettably, many of the CGI visual effects are sub-par and the exterior shots look particularly bad. There's also a really bizarre scene where a smoothing filter is placed under Brad Pitt's eyes, and it looks absolutely TERRIBLE. It's so blatantly obvious and looks like the old "Vaseline on the lens" trick, except that it also moves with his face. Why did anyone approve this and think it was okay? And did they seriously think that people wouldn't notice? My eye latched onto it immediately and wouldn't let go. Simply awful. Additionally, they must have really liked the blood vomiting flashback because they show it at least three times, which is totally unnecessary and ruins its impact. Also similar to "Atomic Blonde," the music and sound effects are overbearingly loud, which makes the dialog difficult to hear. That, coupled with my hearing loss and the tendency for many of the characters to mumble made the dialog extremely hard to make out and understand. If I ever watch the film again, it will have to be with subtitles. Sadly, I had high expectations for the film, and it disappointed me in nearly every regard. It would have probably benefited from a more straight forward and streamlined approach, as well as dropping all of the goofiness.