From John Wick and Atomic Blonde until Deadpool 2 and Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & ShawDavid Leitch’s career path was toward more jokes, and that path reaches its apex – or, more accurately, the low point – with bullet train, an adaptation of Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka’s 2010 novel that leans heavily on R-rated murder-and-chaos humor. Looks more like Joe Carnahan’s 2006 fiasco smoking acesLeitch’s latest is a merry carnage played for laughs, the problem is that the more it puts into madness the less it pays off. Despite Brad Pitt’s performance in the game, it’s the cinematic epitome of a try-hard.
Adapted by Zak Olkewicz, bullet train (August 6) takes place on a high-speed train from Tokyo to Kyoto, whose passengers are mainly hitmen (with cute nicknames) of every creed, color, and nationality. At the head of that class is Ladybug (Pitt), who has been hired by his handler (Sandra Bullock, in a largely voice-only role) to board the train and retrieve a silver briefcase his employer coves. . This is Ladybug’s first assignment since a hiatus in which his therapist encouraged him to stay cheerful, find inner peace, and embrace the self-help Zen beliefs Pitt spews with the frenzied positivity of a newlywed true believer or, at least, a wannabe positive learner. Still, he can’t shake the feeling of being a snakebite (something that will become literal later on), and that impression is compounded once his ride begins and, after finding his target, he is attacked by The Wolf (Bad Bunny), the first of his many deadly opponents.
While Ladybug tries to reach his goal, bullet train also targets some other desperate colorful killers. The most insistent of that group are Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), a pair of British “twins” who dress stylishly and constantly bicker. Lemon can’t keep quiet about Thomas the Tank Engine, whose series he believes is a metaphor for life and whose characters encapsulate every human type, and Olkewicz’s script hammers this running gag into the ground, despite the fact that it never, for a second , smart or funny. Henry and Taylor-Johnson make a nice brotherly couple, but their heavily accentuated mile-by-minute banter is unbearably laborious; it’s like auditioning for one of the countless late 90s crime movies spawned by Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
There are additional deviant psychos that populate bullet trainincluding The Prince (Joey King), a young girl responsible for pushing a young boy off the roof of a department store to lure the child’s father (Andrew Koji) onto the train and use him as her pawn in a murderous plan. King wears preppy clothes, has dark eyeliner and poses more than they sulk, which can’t be said about Henry and Taylor-Johnson, who seem to have been told by Leitch to do their very best Looney Tunes schtick. Pitt operates in an equally outrageous way, his insanity regarding nonviolence (“Hurt people hurt people”) and strives to be at absurd odds with his talent for ending the lives of others. Pitt’s performance feels like a marriage between John Wick and his stoner from True love (or Jeff Bridges’ The Dude), who could win if given something funny to do or say.
bullet train is a frenetic, swinging, cacophonous cartoon, embellished with Japanese animé flowers (including a blacklight-soaked train car in which an actor wears a large puffy costume with animated characters) and aggressively over-the-top aesthetics. Leitch’s camera spins, whizzes, rotates and tumbles in surrender, the action swings between manic hand-to-hand and firearms chaos and slow-motion strutting, all like title cards (packed with Japanese text) and flashbacks that ramp up proceedings further. Everything is drenched in bold, bright colors and set to unexpected music – an English punk song here, a Japanese pop song there and a good dose of country ballad – but with little noticeable ending. Even Leitch’s signature fight choreography is lost in the blinding shuffle; there is not a single memorable skirmish amid this sea of quick cuts and dull quips.
The briefcase these killers are looking for is a MacGuffin as unimportant as the underlying reason they’re at each other’s throats, and yet bullet train eventually it ends up untangling the various storylines so that it can come to its breakneck conclusion. However, it’s impossible to care about any of these players or their eventual fate, regardless of the routine references to luck and fate, two forces that come into play in the comparison of this saga at random – and thus meaningless – intervals. One of the main problems here is that, despite the oft-discussed ideas of a bigger plan at work, it never feels like someone is at the helm of this runaway enterprise. The film strangles one in the service of random, gory, saliva-flying carnage, and while there are plenty of poisonings, stings, blows, and nausea in this stew, what stands out are the missing ingredients: comedic inspiration and a tone that doesn’t. cause almost immediate exhaustion.
“Pitt’s performance feels like a marriage between John Wick and his stoner from ‘True Romance’ (or Jeff Bridges’ The Dude), who might win if given something funny to do or say.”
bullet train is Leitch’s third consecutive attempt at fusing powerful brutality with rat-a-tat-tat folly, and in this case the emphasis on the latter proves so great that the former produces almost no excitement. Men and women fight, jump on trains, break through doors, wrestle with snakes and struggle with those beautiful but confusing multi-purpose Japanese toilets, but in the end there’s almost nothing to show for it. The affectation consumes and crushes, crushes any flicker of invention and, most importantly, derails the balance between the hardcore and the ironic wink that Leitch craves. Plenty of good actors sniff and puff their way through this two-hour ride, the finale of which not only features the appearance of a stoic (and half-bored-looking) Michael Shannon, but also, fittingly, a head-on collision that doesn’t stop things from going on. go, and they all come out, the worse for wear and tear.
Unable to come up with an equation for his wretched condition, Pitt’s Ladybug opines that bad luck follows him “like…something witty.” His failure to come up with a suitable joke is The train of the bullet own, causing it to crash and burn long before reaching its disappointing destination.