Brad Pitt jumps aboard the ridiculously gleeful ‘Bullet Train’ full of gleefully violent stars

“You never know what horrible fate your bad luck saved you from,” is one of many philosophical lines about luck and fate in the clever yet satisfying thriller, “Bullet Train.” The movie, maniacally directed by David Leitch (“Deadpool 2”), has multiple characters, from Ladybug (Brad Pitt) to Prince (Joey King) to the Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada) speaking or poetically waxing fate and luck, luck and fate.

There are also several characters, including Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) – aka “The Twins”, and yes, named after the fruits – who talk about Thomas the Tank Engine. (Lemon learned to read people by watching Thomas.) All of this talk, while witty and fun, balances the film’s action, which is also witty and fun, as well as wildly, overly and gleefully violent. A ‘funny’ sequence of gratuitous violence has Lemon and Tangerine recounting exactly how many people died in an episode that might give Guy Ritchie the cravings – and it’s scored for Engelbert Humperdink’s ‘Pretty Ribbons’ . Another is to see a character after half of their head has literally been blown off, which provides a fantastic visual gag. There is more, much more. Some are funny, some are painful, some are both.

The plot is as simple as the mission Ladybug’s handler, Mari Beetle (Sandra Bullock), gives her: Get on the bullet train to Kyoto. Get the case with the sticker on the handle. Get off the train at the next station. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezed. But, of course, that is not the case. Ladybug encounters problems at every turn, from a driver who keeps popping up to ask for his ticket – he lost it before boarding; such is his “biblical” bad luck – for The Wolf (Bad Bunny) who is intent on killing Ladybug for spilling her drink on her suit at her wedding. (There’s more to this story than just a laundry bill, and it involves vomiting as well as bleeding eyes. Again, the movie is overkill; the footage in question is shown multiple times lest viewers don’t forget the indelible images.)

High-speed trainBad Bunny in “Bullet Train” (Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures)

But like “Bullet Train,” it’s easy to digress. Take some of the other violent stories that unfold. The father (Andrew Koji) is on board to get revenge on the person who pushed his son off a roof and landed him in the hospital. Lemon and Tangerine guard the sticky-grip briefcase and The Son (Logan Lerman) as they’ve been hired to deliver the two to White Death (Michael Shannon), a Japanese underworld kingpin whose rise to power is recounted in a fiery and bloody flashback. (She too is shown several times.)

Also on board is Hornet (Zazie Beetz), who has an agenda that involves a stolen boomslang – so yes, a snake is on the trail. Additionally, a giant inflatable Japanese anime character and a Fiji water bottle are also seamlessly integrated into the action.

“Bullet Train” offers a good ride for most of its two hours. Ladybug offers a series of epic fights, each more creative than the next. One of them has him defending himself against Wolf wielding the sticky-grip briefcase as a weapon. Another has him fight Lemon in the quiet car, much to the chagrin of a disturbed passenger. But what makes the movie so fun is that the audience mostly knows what’s going on while the characters don’t. It generates a real thrill when Lemon, the father and the prince meet, draw weapons, shed tears and make the wrong decision when they think they are making the right one. There is still this destiny and this chance.

Despite all the twists and turns, the movie offers some seriously fun moments, from two hilarious cameos to a moment when Ladybug hides out in a bathroom and learns about the bidet and air-drying functions of a toilet. smart.

High-speed trainMomomon in “Bullet Train” (Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures)

The film doesn’t take itself seriously, despite all the talk of luck and fate, but the characters are also mostly cartoonish, which is a bit of a downside. Pitt is generally suave as Ladybug, but he goes through some soul-searching. His conscious platitudes are meant to be entertaining – they literally give him (and the audience) the chance to rest, breathe and process amidst all the chaos – but they get tiresome. Likewise, the banter between Lemon and Tangerine often feels forced, like something out of a Tarantino movie. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Henry Tyree are in great shape here, but they’re also a little insufferable. The other supporting characters are less well drawn, though Bad Bunny’s Wolf is a hoot. Joey King’s The Prince and Zazie Beetz’s Hornet are one note. When a wild-haired Michael Shannon shows up to chew up the set and kill people in the final act, he injects the film with some verve.

For all the squishy comedy, funny lines, and kinetic action, “Bullet Train” entertains, until it gets overdone, which isn’t long before the train literally goes off the rails. Things get especially ridiculous when a character jumps off the back of the speeding train and punches through the glass with their fist! It only hurts credibility. Likewise, do several of the other action sets, but the movie doesn’t care about realism. “Bullet Train” wants to give viewers a good time. As luck, or fate, would have it, it pretty much does.

“Bullet Train” is in theaters now. Watch a trailer via YouTube.

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