Trained killer Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is back in the game and his handler Maria (Sandra Bullock) brings him a new job. The mission: collect a briefcase on a shinkansen traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto. The problem: there are assassins on the same bullet train who are also after the briefcase and will take down whoever has it. This includes The Prince (Joey King), Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada). Ladybug must fight his way off the train with the briefcase and derail a conspiracy involving mob boss White Death (Michael Shannon).
Storytime/ brag time; I’ve personally been on a shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto during my stay in Japan back in 2018. That trip felt a lot quicker and less jumbled than this Bullet Train ride! The setup is genuinely fun and had the potential to grow into a silly romp with a wild rogue’s gallery of killers. But its attempts to be a witty crime caper in the vein of Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie with Looney Tunes style violence clash with a needlessly complicated and long story. The movie constantly cuts back and forth between a huge cast of characters that either have too much backstory or not enough, while also throwing in a yakuza storyline that is often more interesting than the actual bullet train ride.
While the star-studded cast does lack a lot of Japanese actors in an Eastern environment, their likability does shine through. Brad Pitt always works as a goofy but badass protagonist, but Tangerine and Brian Tyree Henry as Lemon stand out with their electric chemistry. The action scenes are also highly entertaining with their kinetic choreography and over-the-top gore, but director David Leitch, who used to be Pitt’s stunt double, has that down pat. Also, keep an eye out for some cameos, particularly one that Leitch has worked with in other bloody affairs.
Overall, Bullet Train has enough steam to travel across fun action set pieces and a likable cast, but its overlong and sometimes confusing story slightly derails the journey (literally!). If you’re after a colourful and quick action movie, Bullet Train is enjoyable enough, but don’t feel too bad if you let it pass.
Bullet Train arrives in Australian cinemas on August 4.