Friday, August 12, 2022

Bullet Train review: highly distracted, and that’s its appeal

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Some movies almost beg you to dig deep into their rich lyrics, extract a meaning, walk around the work and explore it for yourself. And then there are movies like bullet train.

This is not a criticism. I liked it bullet train, who has some funny lines and clever cameos, plenty of blood, and Brad Pitt, who is just having the time of his life here. But early on, the killer Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), who is deeply fond of… Thomas the Tank Engine, laments that all entertainment today is “twists, violence, drama, no message – what do we have to learn?” And we know it’s a wink and a wink at us. This is exactly one of those movies, and that’s all it wants to be.

Which makes me, in the audience, think less about the film than about the fact of its existence. There is a hunger for these kinds of movies. No doubt there has always been in certain parts of the world; bullet train is a Japanese and American co-production and draws on the film traditions of both. (It is based on the novel by Kōtarō Isaka) Maria Beetlepublished in English as bullet train.)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt fight in bullet train. Everyone fights in bullet train.
Sony Photos

Director David Leitch got his start in stunts before moving on to directing, initially as an uncredited director primarily John Wick movie and then on Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2and Hobbs & Shaw. Violent fights and stunts are his specialty, and he’s always brought in to direct them, not only because he knows how to make them visibly readable—something most comic book directors could learn these days—but also because they’re fun to watch. to watch.

Image of a spoiler warning

The following spoils the cameos in Bullet Train!

The plot isn’t really the point of this movie, but in a nutshell it’s about a bunch of killers (played by Henry, Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Zazie Beetz, Bad Bunny) who are all find themselves in a high-speed train on Japan’s Nippon Speedline, playing hot potato with a briefcase and answering phone calls from the various villains who hired them. The real point of bullet train is all the stars and some cameos (Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock, who I think were in town of the Lost City shoot, and a very funny Michael Shannon in a major role, and, towards the end, a very brief glimpse of Ryan Reynolds). Also a lot of blood. And Pitt chuckles through it.

bullet train has a visual style similar to the 90s, derived from Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, but not in a bad way. The tropes are just like any other movie about killers, with their various nicknames (Ladybug, The Wolf, Lemon, White Death) announced on-screen in text and the occasional backstory mostly filled in for comedic effect. Everything from sound to timing to color grading to sword fights has been sped up to 11 and if you’re looking for a thrilling ride it’s pretty fun. At some point you start to realize that it’s mostly about the crazy situations our heroes will find themselves in – and also finding out who the heroes are. Perfectly fun, lots of cathartic entertainment after a long week.

What is more interesting to me than the question of good or bad is what? bullet train, which I expect will be a pretty big hit, says about what we want from entertainment these days. By Hollywood standards, this era of reboots and sequels and nothing else, bullet train counts as an original screenplay. It’s not; it’s an adaptation of a book, and more importantly, everything in it has been seen before. But the familiarity of the tropes, the visuals, the plot beats reminded me of the last time I saw a full-throttle action blockbuster with a really original sensibility, sequel or otherwise. (I think it was… Mad Max: Fury Road?)

Two men fight.

Brad Pitt fights Bad Bunny.
Sony Photos

I can get frustrated with the familiarity, but there’s no denying that our culture craves that comfort, sometimes enriched by what passes for novelty. In case of bullet train, the novelty usually comes from celebrity cameos and the sight of blood on screen during the fights, which is absent from most of our big budget entertainment. (The main reason is that blood shifts a movie from PG-13 to R, and PG-13 movies make a lot more money than their R-rated cousins.)

Why do we long for that comfort? Well, it’s a gamble. Part of it is a carefully cultivated hunger to never really be challenged in the cinema. Some may just like the ability, in the streaming age, to just go back to what we know we like when something scares us or makes us uncomfortable.

And part of it, I think, is just the state of the world, which is far stranger than fiction, full of twists and turns that lack the fun of fictional catharsis. if bullet train is a hit, this could be the cause; it’s pure escapism at its best, with no message or lesson at its core. Smooth, maybe a little nihilistic, it’s the kind of movie that Lemon the Assassin would find annoying. But when the same kind of entertainment is made over and over, there’s usually a reason for it.

bullet train opens in theaters on August 4.

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