Imagine the people who went to see this because of this poster.
Think of them and despair.
dir: David Leitch
It’s coming to that time of year where I try to catch up on some of the more mainstream and mindless crap that’s out there, just so I can pretend I’m an egalitarian man of the people and not the snooty aesthete and shameless snob that I actually am.
In that spirit I decided to watch a flick that sounds made up, as in, a fictional movie within some other movie, but it turns out it’s actually real, with actual actors and all.
Bullet Train is mostly set on a Japanese train, but there are like 3 Japanese people in the movie. Everyone else is from elsewhere. They’re not even ex-pats or people who live and work in Japan for whatever reason: they’ve all been hired / tricked / manipulated into being on the train for whatever reasons.
They are all, mostly, assassins or the kinds of people who hire assassins and ne’er-do-wells to do their rich people’s dirty work for them. There are way too many people in the movie, but most of them die pretty quickly, so you don’t really have to get to know their motivations or their hopes and dreams, or even their names.
There’s Ladybug (Brad Pitt), a reluctant assassin who doesn’t want to kill anymore, there’s Lemon and Tangerine (Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who do want to kill people, there’s the Prince (Joey King) who wants to kill everyone, there’s some kidnapped guy’s son (Logan Lerman) who has face tattoos so you know he’s going to die immediately, there’s a guy whose son was flung off a building (Andrew Koji), and his dad The Elder (the great Hiroyuki Sanada, an Actual Japanese Person). And then there’s the head of the yakuza, being, of course, The White Death (Michael Shannon).
Did I forget anyone? Oh, yeah, Bad Bunny turns up as a guy called The Wolf who is so dumb he ends up killing himself, and some lady who poisons people (Zazie Beetz) who, get this, poisons herself.
There are probably more people I’ve forgotten. It’s not a memorable film. It’s the kind of film so convoluted and so pointlessly drawn out that you forget who is who and why they’re trying to kill each other within seconds of a scene changing.
It’s been likened to Guy Ritchie’s stuff post-Lock, Stock, and that’s a pretty damning indictment. I loathe when any director overuses the “well, twelve minutes ago…” flashback to explain stuff happening in real time, only to do it again every fifteen minutes or so. It’s lazy bullshit.
Brad Pitt looks like he’s having fun, kinda sorta. I mean he looks pretty tired, but it goes along with the general air of the character, the reluctant hitman whose heart just isn’t in killing anymore.
I like to think that it’s the same character who he played way, way back in the day in True Romancecalled Floyd. All I remember about Floyd is that he never bought toilet paper in the sharehouse he lived in, and he was always stoned.
So Floyd sort of grew up, kept smoking dope and killed a few people, and now has some regrets, and talks in psych / counsellor / self-help speak all the time, in between dodging other assassins and hilariously lucking out and surviving unsurvivable situations because he’s like a holy fool-type character.
Fascinating stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. Have I mentioned that there’s a character who’s obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, and that his dissertations on character types and how they apply to various people on the train takes up about, I dunno, four thousand pages of dialogue? Also, Thomas the Tank Engine stickers even play a vital role in the plot.
I wish I was kidding. I was sure that couldn’t have been part of the original Japanese novel that this movie is based on, but I looked it up, and, yes, the same character has the same obsession in the book.
What I find the hardest to believe is not that previous point, but that this movie even has to be based on a book. This is such cookie cutter stuff that I’m surprised an AI wasn’t tasked with coming up with the script. And not a decent AI, oh no, purely budget AIs all the way.
Characters start dying early, and it never lets up, and it happens well before you could possibly start giving a damn about any of them. Ladybug, we are told, might be the main character, but the unlikely pair of Lemon and Tangerine take up more screen time with their terrible accents and worse facial hair / hairstyles. What I can’t figure out is how Aaron Taylor-Johnson, despite being a Brit, can’t do a convincing Brit accent. Maybe because they’re doing the worst cockney accents ever?
That could have something to do with it.
Is it fun? Well, I guess it belts along at a clip. The action scenes are pretty action-y, which is what you’d expect from one of the guys who inflicted the John Wick movies onto an unsuspecting and ungrateful world. Fortunately he’s also the director who made Atomic Blonde. Unfortunately he’s also the jerk who made Hobbs & Shaw, a movie that has absolutely no reason for existing. It’s not even about family.
I think this is the kind of “light” action entertainment where copious amounts of people die but none of it feels like it matters. Everyone’s avenging something but they’re all bad people, so all of them dying is sort of a good thing(?) A train like this crashing where it does towards the end of the movie would have killed something like 20 thousand people, and every single person on board, but the luck of the fool will get you through, when you’re a divine idiot like Floyd Ladybug here.
So what if you’ll feel a bit dumber afterwards, a bit less inclined to use the mental faculties the universe gave you to perhaps avoid image dense/nutritionally empty fare like this? It’s okay, once in a while. Sometimes you crave some dirty bird / Maccas and a Coke. Just don’t make a habit out of it.
6 times Bullet Train is paradoxically too slow and too hasty out of 10
“Hey, you watch something nowadays, what is it, huh? Nothing. It’s twists, violence, drama, no message. What's the point? Huh? What are we supposed to learn? Everything I learned about people I learned from Thomas.” – you have learned nothing - Bullet Train