BULLET TRAIN

Review by

Victoria Alexander



If he wants it, Pitt finally has his franchise. BULLET TRAIN is ruthless, cleverly bloody and filled with David Leitch’s ATOMIC BLONDE violent choreography. Mega-star Pitt lets co-star Taylor-Johnson display all the movie’s sex in an expensive suit.

The headlines I read – I never read reviews that it might influence my opinion – delighted in stating the projected poor opening weekend box office for BULLET TRAIN. I thoroughly enjoyed it. BULLET TRAIN is terrific. I will definitely see it again (and ELVIS before it leaves theaters).

I loved David Leitch’s ATOMIC BLONDE. It was the first time an action star survived a violent multi-adversary fight and showed a banged-up, sore, black and blue body. There was one fight scene in an abandoned building that almost looked real. How did that happen? And let’s not forget the stiletto-heel killing in a taxi. Now that’s something every woman should store in her big handbag.

Who dressed Brad Pitt? (Craig Anthony is credited as “Personal costumer: Brad Pitt”). I once saw Pitt walking a red carpet in Las Vegas. He actually didn’t walk, he appeared as a vision of a human-like god. He did not look like anyone in real life. (It’s an expensive, well-disciplined persona curated by a staff of highly-paid professionals.)

Not here: Pitt looks small, messy and is wearing terrible, homeless clothes. His character is, I assume, a well-paid assassin for hire. Maybe he fell on hard times.


Pitt’s code name is Ladybug.

Spending a career killing people (or doing some other shady wetwork) has gotten to our man. He’s been away re-evaluating his life. Did he go to rehab or a Zen retreat? He’s been in Tokyo chilling when he accepts a rare mundane job from his handler. He refuses the gun his handler has provided for him – he’s not into that kind of contract anymore.

The task is rather simple. Take the high-speed train from Tokyo to Kyoto. All Ladybug has to do is steal a silver briefcase, with an identifiable tag, and drop it off at the last stop. The bullet train makes several stops but only for one minute.

Whatever is in the briefcase, it’s easy to find among the few pieces of luggage where it has been stored. Once Ladybug finds the briefcase, the two ‘brother” assassins who were given the briefcase freak out it’s gone missing. Someone on the train must have it. They are also responsible with depositing a Russian crime lord’s drugged son (Logan Lerman) to Kyoto.

Unbeknownst to Ladybug, that briefcase contains $10 million and the two “brother-assassins”, Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), have been tasked with delivering the briefcase and son to a “Mr. White Death” (Michael Shannon). They would be classified as hitmen “Masters.” Tangerine has the charismatic stroll that could easily bring the bullet train to a permanent stop – if he wanted to. His long-term partner, Lemon, doesn’t use the Myers-Brigg to categorize people but the Thomas the Tank Engine. Everyone he meets he fits into the characters from the children’s book. The one Lemon most fears is the Diesel.

A group of researchers at the Center for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University in the U.K. used several protocols to construct what they termed a "typology" of British hitmen.

Their profile of an average British hitman, insults Hollywood’s fantasy: 1) “He kills on the cheap.” 2) There's really nothing to do on Tuesdays, so that is the most popular day to make the hit.” 3)“The weapon of choice is a firearm.” 4) The victims are killed in drab suburbia, often "out in the open, on pavements, sometimes as the target is out walking their dog, or going shopping, with passers-by watching on in abject horror."

The British researchers also offered four basic profiles, varying on the basis of skill and experience level: the "Novice," the "Dilettante," the "Journeyman," and the "Master.”*

Ladybug has either been a subject of the CIA’s MKUltra or too influenced by his Zen cult. He talks in those circular koans about peace, finding one’s true self and how to save East Antarctica's Conger ice shelf recent collapse. Ladybug might be prone to rendering pious affirmations but he has retained his fighting skills.

This being au courant, the director, David Leitch, knows our attention must be constantly stimulated, so there are several inclusions of Japan’s Kawaii culture of cuteness that dominates the country’s landscape. I find the onslaught of Kawaii weird every time I visit Japan. Masculinity has been eradicated and aggressively replaced by cute animals, cute people, cute styles, and cute music. It is embedded in Japanese culture: cars and buildings are cute, the food is cute and all great ideas are cute.

Japan is collectively a society with a girl’s 12 year old mentality. Hello Kitty is Japan’s official tourist ambassador to Hong Kong and China.

Is the Kawaii culture a direct counter-mission to subsume its historical World War ll Unit 731 reputation?

The public suppression of adult male sexuality has made Japan the second largest consumer of pornography – and it's child porn. South Korea comes in first.

Men have no sexual presence in Japan’s culture.

Audiences are addicted to quick spurts of constant stimulation which means movies can have time loops, quick takes and passing through villains. We do not need a narrator or time-wasting setups.

Using a train as the setting, heightens the claustrophobic violence and the stunt team should be singled out for their work. IMDb.com lists hundreds of people on the Stunts list.

To keep the hitmen from falling into a homoerotic subtext, there is a lone female assassin on board. She’s dressed as a schoolgirl and her code name is Prince (Joey King). Like every person in every movie, all characters are just not interested in money. Even finding out how much money is in the briefcase, no one takes a stack for themselves, just in case.


Various other train intruders turn up. All of them die ugly, imaginative deaths. These perfect snapshots are The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), Wolf (Bad Bunny), and The Hornet (Zazie Beetz).

Leitch puts all he has into BULLET TRAIN and his star is as engaging as ever and displays a warmth that even excuses his killings.

*The “Novice" is a total fledgling. He may be decent at organization, but he's not an expert when it comes to execution. He's usually apprehended with the use of forensic evidence.

A "Dilettante" is a bumbling idiot, who turns to murder only because he's desperate for cash.” A "Journeyman" is far more skilled than the "Novice" and often has access to firearms and criminal networks. He can still flounder in the moment and gets nailed because he lives in the same area as the victim and is known to law enforcement.

A "Master" doesn't commit the same mistakes as all the other killers do. They parachute into the selected area, kill, and depart immediately. The researchers speculate that they have paramilitary experience or a great deal of criminal expertise, and they do not live in the same geographic area as victims. "These ‘Masters’, by virtue of evading justice, exist in the shadows – almost like ghosts.”

For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews

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www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/Victoria-alexander/movies Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society

Personal email: victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com