The characters in Bullet Train take great pleasure killing and maiming one another. I wish we could feel equally gung-ho watching them going about their business. Sitting through Bullet Train, pretending you are amused by the infertile and infantile jokes about breaking bones and blowing brains, is like watching a bunch of kids at a parents’ day performance doing their kiddies’ version of Macbeth. But should we applaud when when none of those kids are ours?
My question to Sony Pictures and director David Leitch, at the end of the two-hour ordeal is, why ? What was the need for this mayhem splurge/ distressing burlesque which thinks shooting off half off a person’s face or stabbing someone in the neck so hard the blood flows like a fountain, is funny.
The ugly gruesome violence is all staged in a rapidly speeding train where the killers can do what they want. It seems the ordinary passengers have all taken another less violent train. Towards the end, someone writes in a line about why the train carries only the assassins’ brigade. By then, we are far beyond caring.
The villains pile up and the body count is fodder for much amusement for the characters. Two of the assassins on board ride to a humoured-up hellish hemisphere named Tangerine(Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Lemon(Brian Tyree Henry ) and do a body count of their achievements as they are confused about how many people they have killed.
Ha ha. Shall we move on? The dumbed-down frenziedly fatuous screenplay is in a hurry to get going. Regrettably, there is nowhere to go in this assassins’ ball. Topnotch actors have joined hands to participate in one of the stupidest glee-gore fest on this side of Oceans 11. Brad Pitt, who hasn’t been seen in a full-fledged role since Quentin Tarantino’s overrated Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and the seriously underwhelming Ad Astra, is disastrously awful as a zen-like assassin, codenamed Ladybug, who takes orders from a woman’s voice on the phone (who turns out to be Sandra Bullock at the end, woweee!). Pitt is on the speeding train to retrieve a valuable brief case.
Pitt’s performance is in the pits. He is saddled with some of the corniest lines on existentialism, which he delivers straight-faced, like a guy who takes himself too seriously at parties while the guests roll their eyes. Pitt’s embarrassing act is specially glaring because there are so many other actors on board this speeding train to nowhere, all trying to inject a semblance of credibility in their characters and a mood of jaunty pleasure in their performances.
Straight off I’d single out Joey King as the queen of the brawl. Joey plays a viciously motivated painfully young and cunning character, gaining her right to grave greed in pursuit of a violent karma. Also, Aaron Taylor Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry as racially mismatched ‘twins’ come off much better than Pitt and Michael Shannon (the latter as the archvillain named White Death), probably because they have the better lines to deliver.
I also liked Benito A. Martínez Ocasio and Logan Lerman as a couple of corpses being made to pretend to be alive (we did this decades ago in Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron). They seem more alive when playing dead than the other characters who act strenuously officious so they can collect the fact paychecks that they were probably given to be part of this fatuous ghastly and costly dud of a film.
There is much rolling of the eyes during the proceedings. And then you realize you are doing most of it. Even the Korean Zombie films show more integrity than this bogus misbegotten burlesque which deep-throats buffoonery and tries to get serious-faced about mayhem as entertainment.
Bullet Train is as entertaining as molar surgery. It would like us to believe it is a bright and bloodied homage to the spirit of violent survival. It is nothing of that sort. It is just one more deplorably desperate attempt to get bums on cinema seats.