Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Bullet Train

It's a brutal, bloody, graphically violent tale of professional killers tearing each other to pieces on a high-speed train, with Japanese comic-book stylings and a plot that explores the philosophy of fate. Also, it's genuinely funny. It's Bullet Train, directed by the guy who directed Deadpool 2 and based on a Japanese novel originally titled Maria Beetle (but published in the U.S. as Bullet Train).

The story goes like this: A "snatch and grab" professional, code-named Ladybug (Brad Pitt), has been feeling down after a streak of bad luck in which people end up dying (or almost dying) during each of his jobs. His handler, Maria (Sandra Bullock), tries to raise his spirits by sending him on a "simple" job, liberating a briefcase from a Japanese high-speed train, or shinkansen. But by what can't be random chance (unless the universe really hates him), Ladybug finds himself at cross purposes with multiple hitpersons, including a zany pair of "twins" named Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry, who voiced the role of Miles Morales's father in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass), a psychopathic schoolgirl named "The Prince" (Kissing Booth's Joey King), a Mexican tough guy called "The Wolf" (played by Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny) and a poisoner named "The Hornet" (Zazie Beetz, who co-stars with Henry in FX's Atlanta).

Other more or less desperate characters include a young Japanese assassin seeking revenge on the psycho who put his son in a coma (Andrew Koji of Snake Eyes), his "elder" assassin father (martial arts maven Hiroyuki Sanada), a Russian crime lord known as the White Death (Michael Shannon) and his son, who spends most of his onscreen time dead (an almost unrecognizable Logan Lerman of "Percy Jackson" fame). Other cast members include Masi Oka (of TV's Heroes) as a train conductor, and cameos by Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds. (I mentioned this movie to someone who immediately said, "Isn't Ryan Reynolds in that?" I don't know where they picked that up; but his brief appearance here wasn't out of place, given the movie's violence and sense of humor.)

Other than the fact that Ladybug's mission goes off the rails, first figuratively and then literally, with breathtaking violence alternating with light comedy and touches of Eastern mysticism and noble mercenary stuff, I don't know what else to say in synopsis, without blowing the whole plot (such as it is), other than to bang out the Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Ladybug's battle with Lemon while seated in the "quiet car" on the train. (2) The entire buildup to the fate of the White Death, from the Prince's plot to all the ways it goes wrong and how they both get their final comeuppance. (3) The "bullet time" train crash – a visual pun on the film's title, which is already a double-entendre – complete with Pitt flying through the air and bonking his head on a teapot. Really, the teapot bonk made my day.

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