Many things went through my mind while watching “Bullet Train”: Express trains look great. Why don’t we have them in the US? Will I be able to see Mount Fuji? Wondering what flavors of Kit Kats they sell on this train?
These thoughts occurred because my mind refused to engage in this gentle splendor, the ultimate complacency with blood and bullets, a feeling that seems to have been snatched from what we might call the “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” period in American cinema, when I cheered Quentin’s first two features Tarantino a lot of young filmmakers to think that they, too, could make a graceful comedy with excessive gunplay, candid sentiments, pop culture references, needle drops, and a bag full of cash.
Having programmed a film festival from 1995 to 1999, I got into “Reservoir Dogs” fanatics more badly than regular movie-goers, which may explain why I caught this new movie early on and never got back. “Bullet Train” pretty much leaves no cliches for this subgenre unchanged, from a self-conscious camera transition to a recorded shoot to a harmless song from the past. (Forever Blowing Bubbles got the honors here.)
Brad Pitt – who, like pretty much every actor, is better than this – plays a kidnap-and-grab codenamed Ladybug. (Oh yeah, they do here too the cute nickname.) The beetle has been tasked by his handler (voice of Sandra Bullock) to jump on the Tokyo Express train, steal a certain bag, and then jump the next time stand up. But it couldn’t be that easy, or there wouldn’t be a movie.
The train happens to host a group of global rogue killers, including: Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a pair of killers inappropriately known as the “Twins,” who are overseers of the bag. the son who was kidnapped until recently (Logan Lerman) the infamous crime leader The White Death; Prince (Joe King), whose murderous intentions belied by the truth of his student; The Wolf (Benito A Martinez Ocasio, aka Bad Bunny), a Bolivian gangster looking for revenge; Kimura (Andrew Koji, “Warrior”), whose son’s life is at stake; And a few more players will be revealed later.
There’s also a deadly venomous snake on board, but it’s become one of the many details that screenwriter Zach Olkwycz (“Street of Fear: Part Two – 1978”), an adaptation of Kotaro Izaka’s book, seems to have forgotten for much of the film, in the same way he writes It has an explanation of what happens to the other passengers but never explains the train crew’s disappearance.
A violent, fast-paced story about a group of attractive crooks trying to outwit each other and/or outdo each other that holds the promise of being fun and exciting, but in the hands of director David Leitch (“Deadpool 2”), it’s a matter of air. It’s clear in the first 20 minutes that this movie operates in such a vacuum of arrogant artificiality that nothing that happens can matter. Rather than descending to the next level of laughter, “Bullet Train” builds to a place, where bodies start piling up, we’re supposed to suddenly care about some of these characters and their relationships to one another.
These talented actors are reduced to playing people’s ideas, often with one specific characteristic that they play over and over again. (Ladybug likes to repeat a self-help aphorism from his therapist when he’s not hitting people, while Lemon rates everyone he meets with characters from “Thomas the Tank Engine.”)
Cinematographer Jonathan Sella (“The Lost City”) delivers all the needed episodes—the kind of movie where a water bottle gets flashbacks, complete with POV—and provides a TV-level commercial luminosity for all the items inside the railcar. What appears through the windows, on the other hand, is recorded as VFX animation (with varying degrees of smoothness) more than actual scenes of Japan, suggesting that the movie was shot entirely on Sony’s location in Culver City, or it may be. It was.
All “bullet train” must have been high-gloss, all-star, late-summer bullshit, but instead gives high-gloss, all-star, late-summer bullshit a bad name.
“Bullet Train” opens in US theaters on August 5.