The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - BULLET TRAIN | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - BULLET TRAIN

New to Netflix - BULLET TRAIN
Mysterious circumstances see a disparate group of dangerous criminals gather on a Japanese bullet train.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Leitch

Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito A Martínez Ocasio

bullet train poster

With a title like Bullet Train you might expect a disaster movie, something along the lines of the 1975 Japanese thriller whose name it shares (and which later saw its plot nicked for Speed) or Tony Scott's Unstoppable. What you actually get is a disastrous movie, a relic from the bad old days of the noughties, Murder on the Orient Express put through a Guy Ritchie blender.

bullet train review

The marketing for director David Leitch's film suggests an action fest, but there's probably no more than 15 minutes of action in its bloated 126 minute runtime. What little action we do get consists of poorly staged scraps in confined train carriages, none of which hold a candle to the famous brawl between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in From Russia with Love. The bulk of the movie consists of characters explaining the plot to one another while they point guns in their faces. At least they don't hold their guns sideways like the hoods of all those awful turn of the century Tarantino knockoffs. It's a small mercy, but you need to take what you can from a movie this terrible.

That plot is needlessly convoluted, revolving around a briefcase filled with cash that assassin Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is assigned to steal from a train travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto. The case happens to be in the hands of Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a pair of cockney brothers who have retrieved the case for a notorious Russian mobster known as "The White Death." Also aboard is a young Russian woman (Joey King) posing as a posh English schoolgirl, a Japanese assassin (Andrew Koji) whose son is being held hostage, and various other international crime figures, some of which take the form of unbilled cameos.

bullet train review

It takes about two hours before someone questions why a Japanese train features such a diverse bunch of commuters and so few locals. I guess this adaptation of a 2010 Japanese novel would have been relocated to the US if they had bullet trains there (given America's obsession with ammunition, it's ironic they don't). There's actually no real reason why this scenario had to play out on a high speed train as its plot moves with the pace of one of those kiddies' trains you find at fairgrounds.

If you're a fan of noughties era Guy Ritchie you'll have a blast with Bullet Train, as it boasts all his trademarks: dodgy cockney geezer accents, uninspired needle drops (an opportunity was missed to populate the soundtrack with songs about trains - God knows there are enough of them), overwritten dialogue, quirky character names flashed up on screen and flashbacks that don't add anything substantial to the narrative. But nobody in their right mind is a fan of noughties era Guy Ritchie, are they? For some reason a snake and a toilet feature heavily in the narrative, and if you're familiar with the 1987 Andy Sidaris directed girls-with-guns classic Hard Ticket to Hawaii you'll be convinced Bullet Train is heading for a homage to that movie's infamous ending. Alas, it never pans out and given Bullet Train's obsession with 2000s cinema it's more likely meant to recall Snakes on a Plane.

bullet train review

For a long time we've been enviously watching Pitt maintain his boyish looks but Bullet Train is the first movie where he's showing his age. At 58, he's the same age James Dean would have been in 1989. Can you imagine a wrinkly Dean getting cast in the Patrick Swayze role in Road House? Why are our action stars so old now? I remember how heavily mocked the 007 franchise was for continuing to cast Roger Moore right up to 1985's A View to a Kill. Moore was Pitt's age in that movie, and it shows. The only thing older than Bullet Train's leading man are its gags, including the badly-needs-retiring shtick of two brawlers having their fight momentarily interrupted by an unsuspecting intruder. Everything about Bullet Train is tired, from Pitt's "I'm getting too old for this shit" hangdog expression to the constant aping of a type of movie that ran its course 25 years ago. Bullet Train does replicate a train journey, by which I mean you'll probably nod off for 20 minutes and find yourself asking "Are we there yet?" more than a few times.

Bullet Train
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.