"Bullet Train" is the Hollywood film adaptation of Japanese crime-mystery-thriller author Kotaro Isaka's 2010 book, "Maria Beetle."
The marketers make it clear that Bullet Train is a product of David Leitch, director of "Deadpool 2," "Hobbs and Shaw" and "Atomic Blonde." He's also been executive producer of two "John Wick" movies. They also like to throw in there that Mr. Leitch has been a stunt man, stunt coordinator, fight choreographer and Brad Pitt's stunt double.
All this information should give you an idea of what to expect from this movie. It's totally hyperviolent. It's full of action and stunts — most of which takes place on a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, where characters like Ladybug (Brad Pitt), Prince (Joey King), Hornet (Zazie Beetz), Wolf (Bad Bunny), Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are all out to either eliminate each other, get their hands on a suitcase and / or seek vengeance vs. a criminal kingpin known as The White Death (Michael Shannon). There's also the Kimura family (Hiroyuki Sanada, Andrew Koji), whose current tragic situation is tied to the shenanigans on board the train.
Leitch also throws in cameos from surprise A-listers and Japanese American geek favorites. To be honest, the first few acts were sometimes comedic but also bloody, colorful, cartoony beat 'em up, shoot them up romp. Since I hadn't read the book, I was thinking, "Where is this going and is this purely gratuitous?"
delivered to your inbox
You also have various incarnations of a Japanese mascot named Momomon popping up and being part of the fighting and shooting and a venomous snake named Boomslang on the loose.
Thankfully, all this chaos gets tied into a single bow in the final act. While Brad Pitt is the lead, I do like the revelation of the film's truest badass (in my opinion), who almost steals the show. I won't spoil that here.
Brad Pitt's mission on the train is one of snatch and grab, but he is constantly in situations where he has to fight to the finish as needed and defend himself. As these situations go awry and as he updates his handler "Maria Beetle," he makes many quips about life philosophies, turning over a new leaf and actually seeking personal peace and serenity. He also muses about the "bad luck" he's been having. But maybe, it's all a matter of perspective?
These little bits of philosophizing and sharing of mental wellness tips throughout the film, often in the middle of a fast-paced, stressful life or death situation, provide balance and humor to the whole enterprise.
By the way, while the film is set in Japan — it's like an imagined, highly stylized Japan. For one, no one was wearing face masks. Even pre-pandemic, Japanese people would wear masks.
Now, even if it's not legally enforced, a majority of people still wear them indoors and outdoors. But then again, Bullet Train does celebrate, albeit briefly, the cleanliness and innovative features of Japanese toilets.
The movie has a run time of two hours and six minutes and opens in local cinemas and IMAX on August 10.