"Bullet Train" should’ve been a gimme of a good time. An action-comedy with an insane cast following a bunch of assassins all unknowingly on the same mission within the confines of a passenger train? Sign me up!
Somewhere on its way to theaters, it creatively and violently derailed into a mostly mediocre and sometimes annoying film that will end up being forgotten by whoever sees it. Hell, I’m struggling to remember the majority of it as I’m writing this.
I wish this wasn’t the case. I wanted to enjoy "Bullet Train," and sometimes I did, but the film can’t stop getting in its own way any time it starts to build forward momentum or any real excitement.
"Bullet Train" follows Ladybug (Brad Pitt), a criminal contractor and assassin trying to curb the usual violence of his profession during his latest job; one that should be a simple snatch and grab on a non-distinct briefcase. The catch? It turns out there are a bunch of other assassins on the train also after that case.
Following the premiere of "Bullet Train"’s first trailer about five months ago, I was very interested in it. The premise was cool enough, but the cast and director are what really sold me. Director David Leitch is a trained stuntman, has an extensive past in stunt coordination and had a hand in producing and directing portions of the "John Wick" franchise, the best modern action franchise Hollywood has to offer. There was a lot of potential just with his inclusion alone, especially with how good of an action film "Atomic Blonde," Leitch’s directorial debut, is. The cast, led by Brad Pitt, are all fantastic in their respective roles, despite the constantly ridiculous dribble they’re forced to spew. All of this makes me think that the script, written by Zak Olkewicz, is the problem.
This script, whoo boy this script; it’s genuinely terrible. It starts off with a half-hour of boring nonsense before becoming even remotely interesting, it’s almost always devoid of humor despite constantly trying and it thinks it’s so much smarter than it actually is. It’s such a frustrating watch, not only because of the missed potential but because of its constant RakeStepping. I just wanted a fun, fast-paced action film. What I got is a mostly fast-paced action film that constantly gets in its own way because of its bad script and obnoxious editing choices.
I guess it wasn’t enough for this screenwriter to have "Bullet Train" formatted like a normal film, as the choice was made along the way to have every character get a stylized intro, title card and, in some cases, several unnecessary and jarring flashbacks. It would be one thing if this was just in the script, but the way it’s all edited together is so obtrusive and annoying. This isn’t "Pulp Fiction" and this writer isn’t Tarantino, this is a mediocre and soon-to-be-forgotten action film written by a guy with only one other writing credit to his name.
The best parts of the film are the action scenes, which are a lot of fun but also often suffer from poor editing choices, which either interrupt the fights or cut them off midway in an attempt to force comedy with unrelated characters that often don’t work. The film is really trying its best to be like a James Gunn film, specifically "The Suicide Squad," mixed with the fight choreography of the "John Wick" films, but it doesn’t reach the heights of either, instead coming off as a stylistic ripoff instead of a well-meaning impression.
I wish I could recommend this film, but it’s just not worth seeing for a ticket price that’s likely going to be upwards of $10. If you have a local dollar theater, or your multiplex has a discount day, then I’d maybe consider checking "Bullet Train" for a matinee, knowing that you’ll likely forget about it by the time you have dinner.
There’s just not a lot to say about "Bullet Train," it’s a bit of a nothing burger. Everything it tries to do has been done better in vastly better films fairly recently or even decades ago. Even with a brisk two-hour runtime, "Bullet Train" just can’t move fast enough to escape itself.