The film itself is a kaleidoscope of stories coming together. Former assassin now turned relaxed hippy named Ladybug (Pitt – Ocean’s Eleven) has been tasked with boarding a ‘bullet train’ in Japan and retrieve a briefcase full of cash. It seems like an easy job but he is unaware that the case belongs to violent thugs Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Kick-Ass) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse) who have been placed on the train to do a task of their own for the cruel White Death (Michael Shannon – Take Shelter).
Meanwhile, another assassin, Kimura (Andrew Koji – Fast & Furious 6), has boarded the train eager for revenge for his son being left in serious condition in hospital thanks to the notorious Prince (Joey King – White House Down). Soon all the missions that are to occur on the train begin to intercede and nobody knows whether the person they are about to meet is friend or foe.
A quick read of the plot may leave you thinking that it would be very easy to lose your way with this film, but the good news is that screenwriter Zak Olkewicz (Fear Street – Part Two) never allows that to happen. In fact that is one of the special things about this film. Normally an action film this manic has so many plots going at once it becomes a mess, but here Olkewicz and Leitch make sure that the film always remains watchable and never becomes a matter of style and substance.
Of course the stylistic feel of this film should also not be discarded. If you loved the look and feel of the original John Wick film, then you will be happy to know that Leitch continues it with Bullet Train. There are no dull moments throughout the film and for the most part the film keeps a frenetic pace for its entire run scene. Even dialogue-driven scenes take a leaf out of Guy Ritchie’s playbook – dialogue is delivered at a frightening pace and it is normally witty and to the point. In fact, some of the dialogue-heavy scenes between Lemon and Tangerine are the highlights of the film.
Likewise, the action sequences throughout this film are top notch. Leitch borrows heavily from the Japanese culture that this film so heavily borrows from and the result is a lot of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat rather than the film just becoming a traditional shoot ‘em up. The fact that the audience is often kept in the dark about each character’s true intentions means that they are constantly left on the edge of their seat as the film keeps lifting the suspense to ridiculously high levels.
There is also a great amount of wit and intelligence to this film. Despite nearly always being kept in a mood of suspense, the audience will find that there are times they laugh hysterically, while the screenplay never allows for the film to become absurd. It has just the right amount of realism to keep everything believable.
Unlike a lot of action films, this film also requires its actors to deliver some pretty intense scenes emotionally. Brad Pitt and Andrew Koji deliver the bulk of the emotion while Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry deliver the laughs. Everyone steps up when it comes to the action, with the biggest surprise being how easily Joey King warms to the genre.
Bullet Train is one of those films where you never really know what is going to happen next. It is action packed and full of suspense with just the right amount of humour. There are cameos galore which never fail to surprise and just simply add to the already star-studded cast. It may come as a surprise but Bullet Train is one of the best action films of the year.
Bullet Train is currently screening in Phuket and is rated ‘18’.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus