Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Bullet Train

Brad Pitt is having fun. I wish I could say the same in watching his latest film. Sure, he's great, but sadly Bullet Train is neither as smart or fun as needs to be. There's plenty of talent here starting with Pitt as the unluckiest bad guy ever, and the setting allows for all kinds of crazy antics, but somehow it just never quite clicks. Rather than the film oozing cool, like Ocean's Eleven, you can feel the desperation of wanting to be cool from nearly every frame of the uneven story of a bunch of killers trapped together on a bullet train in Japan. 

More 2 Days in the Valley than Pulp Fiction, Bullet Train is a wannabe action-thriller that can never shake the overwhelming sense of "meh." Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Bad Bunny, and Zazie Beetz all star as bad people brought together to be trapped on a train from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Interspersed with several vignettes showcasing bits of various characters' past and how they came to board the train, the script by Zak Olkewicz eventually gets around to explaining why everyone is here (although, like much of the rest of the film, it's sadly far less imaginative or interesting than you were hoping). The attempts at clever dialogue involve grown men discussing Thomas the Train Engine and a white man's awkward attempts to explain to find Zen (adapted from a Japanese novel Maria Beetle, the film has taken a hit for whitewashing of several key members of the story). And Michael Shannon feels horribly miscast as the Keyser Söze-ish boogeyman waiting at the end of the track.

Pitt is, by far, the best thing about the film which suffers every time he's taken off camera. Sandra Bullock is charming as the handler in his ear attempting to keep him on track and alive. Pitt is the only one who seems to aware just how insane and ridiculous the story he's been written into is while everyone else seems to be walking around in a different film. Taylor-Johnson and Henry fail as characters who were so obviously inspired to be knock-off versions of Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield and have no chance, given the limitations of the script, to live up to those standards.

A fan of moves set on trains, and bonkers action films, I had hope that even if it wasn't great Bullet Train might at least provide the kind of dumb fun B-movie action flick that  you could enjoy. The problem is Bullet Train wants to be more than high-paced action, needing to stop and explain the backstory of every single person on the train, and so what might have ben an enjoyable enough bonkers flick of action onboard a train becomes a film weighed down by its characters, their backstories, and the Herculean effort to try and make everything fit together before the credits roll. All told, it's meh at 200 MPH.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Bullet Train
  • IMDb: link

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