Brad Pitt is one of the biggest movie stars ever! There is absolutely no doubt about that. The actor has been going strong for decades and has been smart enough to build a career by being more than just a pretty face. The actor has worked with some of the best filmmakers in their field, including David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino, just to name a few. However, it is weird that, for as big a star as he is, he has probably started in fewer blockbusters than you can think of. His biggest movie to date is still World War Z.
So, can Bullet Train, his new film, match up to the financial success of the zombie epic? Bullet Train is a movie directed by David Leitch and stars, of course, Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree-Henry, Joey King, Andrew Koji, Bad Bunny, and many others. The film is based on the novel by Maria Beetle, written by Kotaro Isaka, and tells the story of Ladybug, a veteran assassin hired to fill in for another assassin to do a pick-up job. When he realizes that there are others after the same goal, things become a bit crazy.
From the very beginning, Bullet Train does something that not many movies do, it takes advantage of the fact that Brad Pitt is actually a pretty funny guy. Throughout the movie, we get the chance to experience this side of Pitt as a performer. Without a doubt, Pitt is the best thing about the movie. He anchors the film, which is very welcome because the rest of the characters are all over the place.
Bullet Train is messy. It uses its large cast full of names to create expectations in the viewer. But more often than not, those expectations fall flat thanks to a story that just goes around in circles and tries to recreate the feeling of watching a Tarantino movie. After Pulp Fiction, many directors tried to do the same and failed. It is very strange that after almost three decades, Bullet Train tries to do the same, and of course, it fails in doing it.
No one can really recreate Tarantino when it comes to the dialogue. It is all very meticulously planned, and it has a sort of rhythm to it. What Leitch and the screenwriter, Zak Olkewicz, try to do here is to find that sensation. However, instead of giving us dialogue that feels like it is coming from a master of conversation, the dialogue in Bullet Train feels almost improvised. The jokes don’t really bounce as they should, and some conversations are not as clever as they think they are. There are a lot of quips, and a lot of absurd things going on here.
The movie also doesn’t know how to raise the stakes. The internal logic of the film is almost non-existent and while that allows the movie to go basically in every direction, that same aspect also creates a problem, as if anything can happen, then nothing really special can happen. There is a lot of plot armor for several characters and lots of cutaways to different timelines and events. If you have seen Family Guy at least once, the movie will remind you of that show a lot in the way it presents its humor.
But It is all in good fun; the film has no major aspirations, but you can feel that is something special missing. The huge cast also brings the problem of too many characters and not enough time to develop either of them. When answers to the motivations that some of them have they come as superficial or just pointless, which is a shame.
One aspect that is truly disappointing is the action sequences. There is not one sequence in this movie that can be said to be memorable. This is a very strange situation because we are talking here about David Leitch, director of the first John Wick (alongside Chad Stahelski), and Atomic Blonde. This guy knows how to create action, but here, it feels like they had absolutely no preparation time. Everything feels half-baked. “Nobody” from the same production company, 87North, feels better directed and has way better action.
The production design might also feel a bit on the cheap side. The train where most of the movie takes place feels very fake. The walls, the ceilings, the seats, everything feels hyperreal, like a carton almost, and maybe that was the objective, but it manages to take any sense of tension from the movie. You never feel like the characters are on a Bullet Train. If you want an action film set on a train, go watch Train To Busan. It is way better than this.
Bullet Train stays in the middle of everything. It is watchable, but at every moment you can feel that this could have been so much better, especially with a cast of such magnitude. As it is, it is one of those movies you can watch on a lazy Sunday. Leitch has more projects on the horizon. Let’s hope he can bring his A-game to those, because right now, from the original “John Wick” team, it feels like he is being left behind as the lesser filmmaker.