Bullet Train (Action, Comedy) [Based on Novel] (2022)
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Zak Olkewicz, Kôtarô Isaka (Based on Novel by)
Stars: Brad Pitt, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Andrew Koji
Aboard a Japanese bullet train, five hitmen with overlapping goals face each other on a railway journey to remember.
Based on Kôtarô Isaka’s novel ‘’Maria Beetle’’, comes David Leitch’s film adaptation ‘’Bullet Train’’. An absolutely wild ride with some apparent inspirations. After a delayed premiere, it was first shown at the Le Grand Rex in Paris, France. It’s been produced by Columbia Pictures and 87North Productions while distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing.
Guided by his handler, an operative referred to as ‘’Ladybug’’ (Brad Pitt) boards a train to retrieve a briefcase. On the same train, he finds two English hitmen referred to as ‘’The Twins,’’ a grieving father aiming revenge for a hit on his son and an assortment of other miscreants. It quickly transforms into a train ride from hell as all fight for their own objectives and to make it out alive.
As an adaptation of the Japanese novel, we see a train-bound playground unfold, with too many inspirations to count. Akin to an Asian-inspired classic in ‘’Kill Bill’’, there’s much inspiration from anime in the extravagant characters and style. Even something like ‘’The Commuter’’ comes to mind due to the environment, and fighting choreography similar to ‘’John Wick’’ and ‘’Kate’’ which had David Leitch included as a producer.
Inside the tight carriages of this bullet train, a constant assault occurs between rival assassins. But, before the heist-esque hijinks unleash in full-form, it allows Pitt’s Ladybug and each of the other unique and emotionally exaggerated characters to establish themselves in many flashbacks and monologues. Indications of the inspirations are palpable here, as this part is evocative of each target introduction during ‘’Kill Bill’’. These flashbacks show diverse settings; most of the actual narrative takes place on the train, offering a wide cast on a flippant budget, such as Brad Pitt playing Ladybug, musician Bad Bunny as The Wolf and even cameos by Channing Tatum, Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock.
Like the location, the film comes across as a cruise missile — it knows where it’s headed and moves at breakneck speeds. It’s noteworthy, but once it’s blown-up, there’s nothing left. While neat, quick and clean, the cast consumes a budget perhaps better spent in some other places, as some are even used as cannon fodder for Brad Pitt’s protagonist.
As a westernised adaptation of a Japanese story, it has been criticised for white-washing during casting, which was rightly defended by the novel’s author. And honestly, while generic, the near-caricature acting is a lot of fun, even if it won’t be that memorable in the end.
Barrelling down the tracks to an all too sudden stop.