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Review: Brad Pitt’s 'Bullet Train' is one wild ride

“Bullet Train” stars Brad Pitt as a reluctant assassin who is put back into service by handler Sandra Bullock to retrieve a briefcase of great value aboard one of Japan’s famous high-speed bullet trains. The coveted item, however, is also sought by other deadly individuals on the train.

"Bullet Train" movie poster
"Bullet Train" is a new movie starring Brad Pitt as a reluctant assassin aboard one of Japan's famous high-speed trains who must fight other contract killers aboard the train to retrieve a valuable briefcase.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Passengers aboard Brad Pitt’s new movie “Bullet Train” are unlikely to reach their final destination — alive, anyways.

The new release at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter is a Japan-based action-thriller that includes a talented, multiethnic ensemble cast playing killers of every race, color and creed.

“Bullet Train” is a violent movie with dark comedic overtones featuring Pitt as an assassin facing an existential crisis about his chosen profession; he makes an oxymoronic living by killing people.

The free-for-all, winner-takes-all vibe of the two-hour movie kept me guessing until the end as to which of the contract killers would survive until the end and kept surprising me along the way.

Pitt, aka Ladybug, begins the film by confiding to his off-screen handler, who is played by Sandra Bullock, about his therapy sessions and misgivings now about murder.

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A bullet train in a Tokyo, Japan, train station.
A bullet train is photographed at a Tokyo, Japan, train station.
Contributed / Fikri Rasyid via Unsplash.com

Aboard a bullet train, Pitt is at a crossroads in his life and acknowledges the role that luck — good or bad — has played in his risky career or how he is still breathing while others are not.

Unbeknownst to him from the outset, Pitt was hired as a last-minute substitute for the task of retrieving a mysterious briefcase coveted by stone-cold killers aboard the high-speed train.

While Bullock tries to reassure Pitt the job is a simple snatch-and-grab, Pitt astutely and correctly comes to the conclusion that nothing is that easy or it just sounds too good to be true.

Bullock advises Pitt to carry a gun from the start to carry out the assigned job. But a Zen-like Pitt refuses to bring along a firearm and leaves the weapon in a Japanese train station locker.

“You are getting the new, improved me because if you put peace out in the world, you get peace back,” Pitt tells Bullock during a phone call with the no-nonsense woman.

“Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug's latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe — all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives — on the world's fastest train,” according to a synopsis of the motion picture.

The bloody plot with its diverse characters and their slowly-revealed ties or relationships to one another and the peppy dialogue reminded me of another filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino.

The R-rated “Bullet Train” by “Deadpool 2” director David Leitch is the feature film adaptation of the Japanese novel “Maria Beetle” — published in English as “Bullet Train” — by Kōtarō Isaka.

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Frank Lee
Frank Lee

The big-screen version of the hit novel includes actors Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon and Benito A. Martínez Ocasio.

Whether any of Isaka’s novel was lost in translation by Sony Pictures is arguable. But the killer comedy — pun intended — or comedy of errors seems lovingly brought to life from the pages.

An unexpected delight to rabid film fans like myself were cameos by another actor from the recent comedy “The Lost City” that starred Bullock but featured a notable appearance by Pitt.

Pitt also made a blink-and-miss-it cameo in Leitch’s blockbuster “Deadpool 2” as an invisible recruit of the titular character played by Ryan Reynolds, who returns the favor in “Bullet Train.”

MORE MOVIE COLUMNS BY FRANK LEE:
“See How They Run” is a satiric Agatha Christie-like mystery/thriller of a whodunit costarring Sam Rockwell as a boozy inspector, and Saoirse Ronan as an enthusiastic rookie constable trying to solve the murder of a crew of a popular play in 1950s London.

“Bullet Train” was initially developed by Antoine Fuqua, who co-produced the film. Fuqua is known for his Denzel Washington-starring feature film adaptation of “The Equalizer,” a TV series, and the remake of the Western movie classic “The Magnificent Seven.”

“Bullet Train” currently holds a 53% approval rating among critics and a 78% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at RottenTomatoes.com: “Bullet Train's colorful cast and high-speed action are almost enough to keep things going after the story runs out of track.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .

Related Topics: MOVIESTHINGS TO DO BRAINERD
I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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