Stream or skip? +2023

Available now on Netflix a few weeks after landing on VOD streaming services like Prime Video, fast train is an actionstravaganza by David Leitch, director of dead pool 2a Fast and Furious spin off, Atomic Blonde and, I don’t know, about half John Wick? He’s established himself as an action director, and here he’s adapting Kotaro Isaka’s novel, with Brad Pitt at the helm of a sort of mini-mega cast that includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, and a few other surprising names who I dare not reveal (which I’m sure is just her face CGI-inserted). All of this was enough to make it a $230 million international mini-mega hit at the box office — and a half-decent two hours of ridiculously convoluted plot twists and live-action cartoon escapism.

The essentials: I don’t even want to go into why all these crazy/angry/violent/funny characters are on the super-fast bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, so let’s just say the storyline got them there for our amusement. Oh, and one of them is a Boomslang, which, if you don’t already know, is a snake whose venom can make you bleed internally until you die. Although Brad Pitt is a very good actor, he doesn’t play boomslang – rather an assassin named Ladybug who’s trying to mentally reform himself after many years of killing people and keeps talking about the tricky stuff he learned in therapy Has . He takes the job, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter because it’s a 100 percent no-holds-barred MacGuffin hunt, but he reluctantly takes the job from his caregiver Maria, whom we don’t see and only on the other end of the phone listen, and I suggest finding out who’s playing the voice before you get too distracted by all the flashbacks, cutaways, and confusion. Not that you can’t gloss over the story’s myriad ins and outs and still enjoy the film. You can. Absolutely.

So we have ladybugs. And Kimura (Andrew Koji), who is not an assassin but follows a vengeful path that will lead him there. The actual assassins are as follows: A wily young conspirator known as the Prince (King) who plays up her image as an innocent young girl as part of her ruse. A pair of bickering British brothers known as Lemon (Henry) and Tangerine (Taylor-Johnson), the former obsessed with the variety of life metaphors and character types he learned from Thomas the Tank Engine, and the latter a near-impact copy of Begbie train spotting. A gentleman with facial tattoos who is only known as his son (Logan Lerman) because he is the descendant of a Russian gangster known as the White Death ([REDACTED]). And a Mexican assassin named Wolf (Benito A. Martinez Ocasio, aka Bad Bunny) who feels kind of an alien but dies pretty early so his corpse can be used for slapstick gags.

I know a lot of people in this movie are “known as” things because we never learn their real names. (There are a few more acquaintances, but they will remain [REDACTED] So the spoiler cops don’t throw me face first into the gulag.) That’s on purpose. Real names would make them more realistic and no one is trying to make anything realistic in this film. It’s all snark and irreverent deconstructivism of genre and character tropes – and how! The assassins all get into hilariously violent scuffles in snack bars occupied by happy women with wasabi munchies and in quiet cars where old ladies silence them while they try to punch each other in the face, stuff like that and those who end up not bleeding until they cease to live, they form divisions and alliances that shift and intertwine. At some point they have to figure out why this train is so full of cold-blooded fucking killers. There are reasons, and I’m not here to reveal them in detail, but to tell you that they don’t matter in the slightest.

Bullet Train Streaming Movie
Photo: © Sony Pictures Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

Which movies will it remind you of?: In this film, Leitch crafts his own brutal mockery Dead Pool Excursion and hits us with his obvious Tarantino (esp kill Bill) and Guy Ritchie (Pitt-Starer snap) influenced. But spiritually it’s like a new fluff adventure The Lost City in its old-fashioned allure of entertainment for entertainment’s sake.

Notable performance: Pitt seems to be enjoying himself, playing with the Pitt persona, banging his head lightly against the meta wall to keep from breaking it, hitting his comedy marks adeptly, smiling with brilliant charisma and never grinning like a hideous git. If you don’t find it as endearing as I do, it will probably drive you crazy.

Memorable dialogue: Ladybug, tired from the physical exertion/beatings he has suffered: “Man, fate is just another word for bad luck to me. And that follows me around like… I don’t know, something funny.”

gender and skin: A very short long shot of a scandalous adultery.

Our opinion: to be fair fast trainThe many fragmented shards of flashbacks and cutaways and intros and outros and insidetros eventually come together to form a complete story that shows us Leitch cares (more than some directors of junk-food entertainment anyway). It can test your patience following it all, because there are moments when the train literally rushes forward and suddenly a neon pink title card smashes us that screams 26 YEARS EARLIER, and we’re at a wedding in Mexico or What ever. It’s a style no longer welcome to some, who insist it falls on the wrong side of the line between clever and obnoxious.

I hear this beef. The film took an hour before it broke my barrier of misanthropy and made me laugh against my will, at Leitch’s expert means of turning action violence into slapstick, and at his sly digs at Japanese pop culture, but most importantly at Pitt’s performance of psychobabble like Schwarzenegger used to deliver groaning one-liners: “Let this be a lesson in the toxicity of anger,” quips Ladybug, or “Hurt people hurt people.” It sours some of the outdated, very ’90s-esque meanness here; This is the kind of movie that spends 10 minutes telling us a guy’s sad backstory and then a scene or two later kills him and turns his body into a comedy prop.

But that’s fate and luck and chance and karma at play, as Ladybug keeps pointing out, seemingly aware that he’s the film’s self-critical streak, as he uses fate and luck and chance and karma as an excuse to smack us with a vicious snake or a stash to outsmart explosive. The deus ex machina is very much a figure in fast train, and it knows it, and Ladybug is its spokesman. Is the film trying to say something here? Something about the cruel, ridiculous hand of fate? nope But it’s trying to say something: shut up and enjoy.

Our appeal: Stream it. fast train is more fun than folly, and even then his folly can be fun.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more about his work below

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