Original movies have made a small comeback in 2022. While the big money still lies with sequels and reboots, films like The Lost City, The Bad Guys, and Everything Everywhere All At Once have found an audience despite not being based on any pre-existing franchise.
Hoping to continue that momentum is Bullet Train, David Leitch’s medley of blood and Japanese culture.
Set on a train from Tokyo to Kyoto, assassin Ladybug (Brad Pitt) takes on what sounds like a simple job after trying to get away from a life of violence. Onboard the train, he’s instructed by handler Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock) to pick up a briefcase and leave at the next stop.
Things get complicated when he realises that goal is blocked by a handful of other assassins, with objectives that are all interconnected.
Basically, there’s a lot of killers on the train all broadly looking for the same thing, who move up and down the carriages trying to kill each other.
The comparisons to the work of Guy Ritchie are immediate, to the point where this begins to feel like a bad impression. The dialogue is forced and at times painful, with Leitch much more interested in spraying blood than making sense.
Things get side-tracked by bad jokes and limp pop culture references (a running gag about Thomas The Tank-Engine is beaten to death), meaning that by the time the twists come in your patience is already exhausted.
Pitt is in an enjoyable post-Oscar stage in his career, turning up in odd projects to steal the show and have a good time. There’s more for him to do this time and the veteran star knows how to lead a movie, even one as jumbled as this. His neurotic subtlety is let down by his support cast, mainly Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry as an annoying, bickering duo. Their dreadful cockney accents are matched by wobbly English and Russian accents from the ensemble cast, who aren’t around long enough to warrant a voice coach.
Stylised violence can be fun if there’s a story to keep you going. Unfortunately Bullet Train just doesn’t have the depth beneath the chaos to keep the viewer interested, making for a rare blip in Pitt’s late career renaissance.