Goofy Brad Pitt and intense action keep Bullet Train on track
Not many A-list actors can claim to have had the kind of career that Brad Pitt has had. Initially prized for his looks thanks to his breakout role in Thelma and Louise, Pitt has wound his way through a variety of genres, eventually earning four Oscar nominations for his acting, including a win for his part in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He’s also become one of the more powerful producers in the film industry, earning three nominations and one win for Best Picture.
But for all his Oscar bona fides, Pitt is at his most enjoyable when he goes into goofy mode, as he does again in the action/comedy Bullet Train. Pitt, a reluctant hit man dubbed Ladybug by his handler (Sandra Bullock), is tasked with what is supposed to be a simple task: Steal a case full of money off a bullet train going from Tokyo to Kyoto without being noticed by anybody.
Naturally, things go awry quickly thanks to the presence of a bevy of other contract killers, including Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), Prince (Joey King), Wolf (Bad Bunny), and more. Every time Ladybug thinks he’s about to successfully depart the train, he’s waylaid by another person or obstacle, forcing him to improvise, often violently.
Directed by stunt coordinator-turned-director David Leitch and written by Zak Olkewicz, the film is equally as funny as it is brutal. As played by Pitt, Ladybug is extremely skilled at combat, but also someone who’s in therapy to deal with his anger. The push-and-pull of the two sides of him intersect hilariously throughout the film as he dispatches person after person on instinct rather than desire.
As one has come to expect from Leitch (who’s also directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, among others), the film’s action scenes are intense yet elegant. Utilizing what seems like every inch of the relatively small space inside the train, the fights are also notable for how the combatants take advantage of everything around them. There are guns and knives, of course, but suitcases, seatbelts, tables, headrests, water bottles, and more also make for great weapons in a pinch.
If there’s a minor quibble to be had with the film, it’s that it’s a little too long and convoluted. Every character introduced comes with some kind of backstory, necessitating flashbacks to earlier jobs and interactions. While the various sideplots are kept coherent, having to keep up with all of them sucks a bit of fun out of the film as a whole.
Pitt is darn near perfect in the role, nailing every line as his baffled character suffers through unwanted altercations. Johnson and Henry make for a very fun duo, utilizing Cockney accents to play up the absurdity of their characters. The film also has a bunch of fun cameos, including one by Channing Tatum, making the film a kind of mini-reunion for the cast of The Lost City.
The setting, the humor, and the action in Bullet Train combine to make the film a blast nearly from beginning to end. Pitt is right at home in both of the film’s genres, and everyone involved takes audiences for a hell of a ride.
Bullet Train opens in theaters on August 5.