A quiet, unassuming trip across the Japanese countryside turns out to be anything but in Bullet Train.
A middle-aged hit man-for-hire known only by the quirky code name Ladybug (Brad Pitt) reluctantly returns to service against his own better judgment. His past exploits embody the old saying that, if it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. The current mission seems simple enough. Swipe the suitcase of a fellow passenger, dispatching anyone who might object along the way, and get off the train as quickly as possible. The plan seems to be going along swimmingly until Ladybug realizes that he’s not the only assassin on the trip. Could it be that they’re all after the same objective, or is there something more sinister behind this unexpected reunion?
This madcap merry-go-round brings together an eclectic menagerie of characters, stuffs them into a claustrophobic train speeding along at a breakneck pace and pits them against each other. Predictably, what ensues is pure movie mayhem. That’s nothing new to director David Leitch, whose previous work includes Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2 and one entry in the endless Fast & Furious franchise.
The movie’s overriding aura borrows heavily from films like Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Free Fire and even a hint of the 2022 masterwork Everything Everywhere All At Once. It’s frenetic, funny and visually filling. The plot is a jigsaw puzzle with a missing box cover. You’ll have to work it all out one small step at a time. The beauty of the finished product is that every single piece fits perfectly with the rest. An economy-class ticket has rarely been this entertaining.
The film is ably aided with casting and performances that fit the material flawlessly. As the main hero, Pitt slides into the role with complete ease. Ladybug’s zen-infused fallibility provides the perfect entry into this crazy-ass world. The mission’s other cohorts include the hilarious tag team of Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the disturbingly understated Prince (Joey King) and the unforgettable machinations of The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada). If you still need more, don’t worry; the cameos are every bit as enjoyable.
The film’s biggest hurdle is its early pacing, which somehow drags against the flow of the careening rail cars. Some of the plot doesn’t exactly add up. You might notice a shocking lack of employees or passengers who seem to flit into and out of existence with no explanation.
The movie also has a tendency to come off as a bit nonsensical until settling into a crowd-pleasing pulse. Speaking of pulse, the soundtrack aids the effort with stylistic Japanese versions of classic rock songs. I also enjoyed the inclusion of perhaps the best product placement that I’ve ever seen in a film. Aside from the aforementioned minor bumps and scrapes, this wild ride into the unknown will likely leave you laughing long after the train finally pulls into the station.