Bullet Train (2022)

Posted in Reviews by - November 27, 2022
Bullet Train (2022)

Based on a popular Japanese novel, this inert action comedy tries desperately to be quirky and charming, but continually fails to achieve either. Despite its high-speed setting – in which a bunch of assassins find themselves on board Japan’s bullet train in search of a briefcase – the plot is plodding and stodgy, and its starry cast is wasted on comedic beats that don’t land, and irksome characters that you won’t give two hoots about. This seems quite crass and low-grade for an actor of Brad Pitt’s stature, who reunites with his former Fight Club stunt double, David Leitch, now sitting in the director’s chair. Pitt manages to channel a slight level of detachment which elevates his role as an ageing hitman full of existential doubt; sure, it’s not one of his most memorable performances, but at least he seems to be enjoying himself. Hiroyuki Sanada has needed a decent Hollywood vehicle for some time, and although he adds his customary dignified poise to the role of a vengeful old Yakuza, his talents are wasted. Similarly, Andrew Koji has deserved better after his scene-stealing turn in Snake Eyes, which was another dud. The film’s grasp of Japanese culture is dated and very broad, as if we’ve never heard of wasabi peas or seen a smart toilet before. The action is mostly of the slapstick variety – think Jackie Chan meets Edgar Wright, with a healthy dollop of R-rated bloodshed – but this does not exhibit anywhere near the same creativity as Leitch’s other work. Adding to the comedic deafness are cockney thieves Lemon and Tangerine (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry)¬†who seem to have stepped out of a Guy Ritchie film from 20 years ago. They’re a constantly annoying presence in a film full of odd and disjointed moments.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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