David Leitch’s “Bullet Train” might travel at over 100 mph with a story that is anything but an A-to-B narrative, but fear not – it never comes close to flying off the tracks.
A colorful mosaic of martial arts, slashing swords, comedy, flashbacks, and verbal sparring, “Bullet Train” is one of the year’s best action movies that continues the “John Wick”-inspired trend of action films directed by 87Eleven alumni being the best the big-screen currently has to offer!
Brad Pitt portrays the former assassin brought out of retirement codenamed ‘Ladybug’, with Joey King playing the clever villainess known as ‘The Prince’.
Andrew Koji of “Warrior” fame portrays ‘Yuichi Kimura’ aka ‘The Father’, with Hiroyuki Sanada playing his father ‘The Elder’, whilst Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Tyree Henry on-board as the duo ‘Tangerine’ and ‘Lemon’.
Benito A. Martinez Ocasio also appears as ‘The Wolf’, with Zazie Beetz playing ‘The Hornet’ and Sandra Bullock playing Ladybug’s overseer ‘Maria Beetle’.
Additionally, Michael Shannon plays the arch-villain of the movie, ‘White Death’, with Logan Lerman also appearing as his son, codenamed ‘The Son’, and Karen Fukuhara as the Train’s Concession Girl.
The retired assassin operating by the codename “Ladybug” thought he’d gotten out of the killing game, but he’s pulled back into action for one last job by his old associate, Maria Beetle.
The job itself is seemingly a simple killing and for Ladybug to retrieve a silver briefcase on a bullet train en route to Kyoto from Toyko. However, he soon comes to realize that he’s far from the only party on the train interested in the briefcase.
The situation is also even more complicated with Yuichi Kimura on-board, coerced into retrieving the briefcase by The Prince, whose cohorts have his comatose son hostage, and everyone after the briefcase finding themselves either targeting or the target of the mysterious crime boss known only as the White Death.
The non-linear story and interlocking character stories of “Bullet Train” waste little time in pulling viewers aboard for the wild ride that the movie has to offer, and the collection of characters are thoroughly entertaining even just riffing off of each other.
Brad Pitt is his usual sardonic self as Ladybug, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Tyree Henry offer plenty of hilarious, profanity-sprinkled comic relief.
Andrew Koji Brings a Gritty Edge
Andrew Koji also brings his gritty edge to his performance as Yuichi, though sadly, he doesn’t get to participate that much in the film’s action scenes.
Events Zip Back and Forth Like A Literal Bullet Train!
Very much in the vein of David Leitch’s past work as director, “Bullet Train” keeps things light-hearted and quietly comical, with the timeline of events zipping back and forth like a literal bullet train.
For as much comedy as “Bullet Train” delivers, there’s also a surprising amount of dramatic weight behind its story, particularly with its villain’s motivations as they stand with the main characters, and especially Joey King’s The Prince.
It’s All Action Fun Onboard!
Parallel stories converging into one are an element of storytelling that David Leitch navigates very well from Zak Olkewicz’s screenplay, which also makes the action on-board that much more fun.
Just as satisfying as the comedy of “Bullet Train” is its action, given the trademark 87Eleven polish under David Leitch whilst hitting with the proper “John Wick” precision.
For doing as many action movies as late in his career as he has, Brad Pitt really leaves one wondering why he’d taken on comparatively few action roles before now. “Bullet Train” battles aboard the speeding locomotive are a real throwback to the glory days of Hong Kong action movies with the unmistakable 87Eleven flair.
Brad Pitt Should’ve Done Hong Kong Action Sooner!
Even better is the comedic DNA that permeates each; the weaponry of knives, briefcases, syringes, and snakes culminating each action scene with lethal hilarity, often literally so, while leaving Ladybug with the problem of hiding deceased enemies from the view of other passengers for added dry humor on the action.
Michael Shannon’s role in the story as the bloodthirsty, White Death is kept in just the right place for the ruthless villain landing right when the movie needs it. And for a speeding showdown of assassins aboard a train speeding along the tracks with a war of blades unfolding on board, Hiroyuki Sanada’s The Elder naturally chops more cleanly than any of his fellow passengers.
With the summer movie season wrapping up, “Bullet Train” is the last great action movie hurrah of the season hitting theaters, and it’s as much of a hyperactive ride as its trailers promise.
The performances of the movie’s ensemble cast are hilarious and moving at every point they need to be, and the action scenes deliver another 87Eleven winner of newcomer and veteran action stars doing their thing. Ladybug and “Bullet Train” alike on are the same mission to deliver their respective packages, and for both, KFK says “all aboard!”
- “Dude, I don’t even know you!” – Ladybug (while defending himself against The Wolf.)
- “Well that’s a s—t deal!” – Ladybug (after The Elder tells him that fate has led him to his situation aboard the train.)
- The movie is based on the novel “Maria Beetle” by Kōtarō Isaka, which was re-titled “Bullet Train” in English-speaking territories.
- Per stunt coordinator Greg Rementer, Brad Pitt did roughly 95% of his own stunts for the movie.
- Lady Gaga was originally set to play Maria Beetle, but scheduling difficulties with “House of Gucci” forced her to vacate the role, with Sandra Bullock replacing her.
- Prior to directing Brad Pitt in “Deadpool 2” and “Bullet Train”, David Leitch served as his stunt man on numerous movies, such as “Fight Club” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”. Leitch also famously co-directed the first “John Wick” with Chad Stahelski, who himself had been the stunt double for Keanu Reeves in the first three movies in “The Matrix” series.