If Brad Pitt’s latest film Bullet Train feels more like a Deadpool sequel than a standalone film, it is probably due to the fact that Deadpool 2 director David Leitch has helmed it. Like the successful superhero film, Bullet Train too, boasts of a quirk-a-second type comedy, zany characters, and a complete disregard for logic. They both even have charming lead actors. But where Bullet Train lags is a coherent plot. It lacks one and in parts, makes no attempt to even use any logic. In the end, this train wreck is only elevated to watchable status courtesy the fine work of an amazing cast, who all bring their A-game. Also read: Brad Pitt explains why he attended Bullet Train premiere in a skirt
Bullet Train has a simple enough premise – five assassins are on the Bullet Train from Tokyo to Kyoto, when they realise that their assignments may be inter-connected and someone is pulling their strings for a much bigger game. Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, an out-of-luck hustler, who has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Supporting him are Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry as Lemon and Tangerine, who are transporting the son of a Yakuza kingpin, and thrown into the mix is Joey King as Prince, an innocent-looking dangerous teenager. Add Zazie Beetz, Michael Shannon, Andrew Koji, and Hiroyuki Sanada and it looks like a delicious cocktail. Sadly, it is a cocktail that is too heavy on your senses, and too messy.
The one thing going for Bullet Train is its star cast. Brad Pitt is brilliant and effortless as the man, who can’t catch a break. The script depicts his lack of good fortune quite beautifully. At the other end of the spectrum is Joey King’s character, who cannot put a foot wrong. Both actors are a delight to watch. But the best part of the film is the chirpy chemistry between Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry as the Twins. Their bickering, partnership, and camarederie instils life in the film. But I did feel an actor of the caliber of Michael Shannon was wasted in the film. He had very little to do in a largely unidimensional character.
But the performances are pretty much the only thing working for Bullet Train. It goes all downhill once you begin looking at the other departments. The plot is incoherent with too many things happening at the same time. A tight editor would have kept all of it together, but that doesn’t happen here. The film defies logic. Now, I am not asking for real-world logic in a film with a protagonist named Ladybug and a villain named White Death but some semblance of common sense would be welcome. People die, blood is spilled, snakes are let loose and yet the staff of the train keeps working. Having endured all this, they need an award surely for being the most committed workers in the history of the world. It is downright absurd.
The film has also faced allegations of whitewashing. The original novel had all Japanese characters, which makes sense considering it is set entirely in Japan. In the film, only one of the major characters is Japanese. No prizes for guessing it’s the one with the least amount of screen time. The suits high atop their ivory towers called film studios seriously need a reality check. In an age where Money Heist and Squid Game can be the most-watched web series globally, you don’t need to force American and British faces and names in a native story. It was bad enough when Scarlett Johansson was air-dropped in Ghost in the Shell five years ago. But today, it’s just an obstinate refusal to see the changed landscape.
Should you watch the film is an interesting question. It can only be answered if I know what you are looking for. If a mindless action film is what you want to catch this weekend, go for it. The action, quirky one-liners, and Brad Pitt will keep you engaged. On top of that are the cameos. Half of Hollywood appears in five-second roles in an interesting ‘spot me if you can’ game. But my litmus test for how lackluster the film is one of these cameos. The loudest cheer from my theatre came for one of these extremely short cameos and not any of the jaw-dropping action sequences or multi-million dollar special effects. Pretty telling, isn’t it?
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Benito A Martínez Ocasio