The pandemic, as we are all aware, changed a lot in the world in a very short time, as pandemics have been doing for millennia. Last year was so good for movies that this black comedy, like The Woman King, should have been higher in the rankings for the year. Everyone obviously worked hard on the project, and there are a lot of big names gracing the screen. There was even a moment between two actors that reinforced my desire to see them playing romance together*.
Brad Pitt is “Ladybug”, a smash and grab expert who is assigned a job when the assassin of record calls in sick. All he has to do is board a bullet train heading for Kyoto, find a briefcase and steal it. Easy peasy. Bad luck is his burden in life, so of course the train is bristling with world class assassins, all of them hoping to kill the annoying American.
There is a noirish opening, with the lighting and the stark camera angle and a crying, distraught man watching over a child in a hospital bed. Other scenes are obviously lifted from famous films, like a man walking down a street to the tune of “Stayin’ Alive”. There is an extended two-men-talking-to-each-other-about-nothing, as in every Quentin Tarantino film, and a series of cut scenes that struck me as Tarantino-ish. This sort of lifting from other works generally irritates me, and this movie was no exception.
Something else that irritates me is when filmmakers try so hard to be funny the humor stops working. The first half of Bullet Train tries hard to be funny, and it did manage to make me smile a few times. The biggest problem is that the plot is seriously convoluted. It takes the whole first half to set up the mayhem that is the second half. Post mayhem everything happens so quickly and there are so many deaths on the speeding train that I actually had to stop the film at one point to try and remember what had happened to one of the characters. I couldn’t remember if he was alive or dead, and if he was dead who killed him.
I was ready to write a super snarky review about big, expensive movies stuffed full of big name, talented actors. Then the second half rolled in and all of a sudden we were laughing out loud a few times and I began really enjoying myself. The consistent choice of pop songs used as ironic puns under the action finally got to me. I smiled at the “Stayin’ Alive” at the top, but the more often Brad Pitt was fighting for his life the funnier it go. “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” made me laugh out loud, as did “I Just Had to Celebrate”.
The many, many fight scenes were all beautifully done, as you would expect from stuntman-turned-director David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw), and as funny as the songs. Everyone dies in funny and ironic ways, and though it’s a fairly bloody film in the second half it’s a funny bloody.
If you don’t mind hearing one of the characters wearing out the F word (I found it very amusing), and if you don’t mind not REALLY knowing what’s going on until the last moments (do watch the end credits scene), you’ll enjoy this from the start. I didn’t until about halfway through, but I would happily watch it again knowing what’s what and who’s who.
CFR: In Addition:
So um, yeah, this review should have gone out two weeks ago. It didn’t because school started and I had to reorganize the first three weeks of my class and create new materials and ….. hangs head …. sorry. Thank goodness Mildred is enjoying her new Internet connection and hasn’t vowed to smack me – yet.
Now for my part, I really liked Bullet Train. Maybe I am a crazy easy grader. Could be. But I do love humorous action/adventure and the whole bit about the Pitt character channeling is inner peace just made me grin the whole way through. If you like silly action adventure, this movie is for you.
*If you will recall, I thought Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt have great chemistry in The Lost City. It’s still there in Bullet Train.