Despite all his leading man sheen, Brad Pitt has spent decades trying to convey that, at his core, he is just a goofball. He plays wonderfully bumbling characters in Burn After Reading, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and even the new movie The Lost City. It’s not clear how much of this has been understood by audiences, however.
There’s nothing like the grandeur of movie stardom to shake off. This might explain why Bullet Train feels so desperate, a gonzo action movie from Deadpool 2’s director. While Pitt’s jokes are funny here – his shovel of a snake down a toilet bowl has particularly comic timing – Bullet Train’s quirky theatrics feel so try-hard it’s like watching a child repeatedly begging for attention before doing a cartwheel into a brick wall.
The film is Tarantino-esque at a time when that descriptor has become so overused that it can only be considered derogatory. Do we not have another thing that white guys desperate for a visual style can shamelessly plagiarize? It seems strange to see that kind of derivativeness from a director like David Leitch – his recent film John Wick, co-directed with Chad Stahelski, is perpetually spawning copycats.
As far as pop culture is concerned, Leitch has already made a name for himself. Did he not have the option of borrowing from himself? The fact Bullet Train is an adaptation – of KÅtarÅ Isaka’s 2010 novel Maria Beetle – seems to have had little effect. While Japanese and Japanese-American stars like Karen Fukuhara and Masi Oka receive only scraps of dialogue, the film is crowded with Western actors.
An orientalist aesthetic is instead exhibited in the film. He is coaxed back into work with what should be a simple task: pick up a briefcase stored on the Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kyoto and walk away.
However, this is no simple task since Ladybug believes he is unlucky. As a result, he spends much of his screentime muddled by Japanese culture, incapable of using a smart toilet, rolling his eyes at the train’s costumed mascot, and arguing that people in Japan aren’t as polite as they thought they would be.
A Japanese-language cover of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” and Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” can be heard during certain parts of the song. In essence, it is action cinema used to promote tourism. There’s no shortage of deadly assassins on this train, all hunting for that mysterious briefcase, and all made up of one-note caricatures.
Cockney geezers Tangerine and Lemon disagree over their codenames. How long has it been since you’ve eaten lemon meringue pie? One of them argues, which is odd seeing as lemon meringue pie is a perfectly acceptable dessert.
It is Lemon who has built his entire moral code around Thomas the Tank Engine, which is based on Isaka’s novel, but which is here rendered largely irritating. As part of the trip, they’re traveling with the son of White Death, an infamous Russian mobster.
There are also two other assassins hot on their heels, Wolf and Hornet. She has a hidden motive, as she speaks with another shaky British accent. In the meantime, a Japanese assassin, Yuichi Kimura, has been assigned to find the person who pushed his infant son off a roof at the beckoning of his father.
Since they are the only human characters in the film, they are undoubtedly the coolest addition to a film in which everyone is trying so hard. In Zak Olkewicz’s screenplay, intricate chaos is the aim. This is exactly the sort of hyper-pop film that, when it fails, comes off as exceedingly smug.
A montage of Engelbert Humperdinck-soundtracked music seems too clever to me, counting how many people Lemon and Tangerine have killed. Alternatively, Ladybug frets that she is being mansplained as she is bleeding to death. It may also be the padding out of excessive backstories for characters who get whacked immediately after being introduced.
A glimmer of the Leitch who made John Wick can certainly be seen here. Several heads are wacked into tables in the train’s quiet car during a fight, which begins with whispered arguments and ends with padded thuds. Despite its confined settings, the film never can take advantage of them since everything melts into a blur of CGI.
And Pitt? Pitt’s usual response in these situations is to give stoner philosophies like “let this be a lesson about the toxicity of anger” or “hurt people hurt people.”. Of course, you’ve seen this before. In addition, you’ve already seen it in a better light.
Dakota Cameron is a seasoned web content writer and covers the Hollywood movies for the MovieThop Website
Ms. Cameron began his professional life as a freelance blogger. Later, he worked for Witbe as a content writer for two years. His interests include blogging, reading, movies and travel.
Ms. Cameron graduated in Journalism and Mass Communication from University State of Georgia University. He is fluent in French, Spanish, and other languages.