A white man walks along a busy Tokyo street streaked with neon lights. He is a chatty assassin, discussing his next assignment on the phone with his ‘handler’. Code-named ‘Ladybug’, Brad Pitt’s character in the 2022 movie ‘Bullet Train’ instantly reminded me of American hit man Bryce from Marvel’s ‘Hit Monkey’. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Based on a novel called ‘Maria Beetle’ by Kotaro Isaka, the action-comedy-thriller has been directed by David Leitch. It follows a bunch of assassins who are all aboard a high-speed Shinkansen train on different assignments, but their tasks are mysteriously inter-connected with each other. Most of the action revolves around a suitcase loaded with ransom money, which belongs to a dreaded mob-boss known as ‘White Death’. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry play brothers Tangerine and Lemon, who rescue White Death’s son & are on the train to return the boy and the suitcase. Andrew Koji plays former hit man Kimura, who boards the same train to exact revenge upon a person who pushed his son off a building; said person turns out to be a deceptively devious girl called ‘Prince’ (because her parents wanted a boy) who has her wicked plans.

Brad Pitt might be the biggest star in the film, but this is an ensemble movie where pretty much everybody else is more psychotic and intriguing than Ladybug. But Ladybug sure knows how to fight and the action sequences are pretty damn great, reminiscent of the fun old Jackie Chan movies, but with a lot more blood and gore. Leitch and team turn even a harmless little laptop into a lethal weapon in the hands of their characters. There was scope for the team to get even more creative, but most deaths in the story occur in non-surprising ways. The shiny squeaky clean interiors of the train makes for a fun contrast against all the guts being spilled on its floor and bathrooms.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry made for a weirdly comic duo, and were a lot like the time-traveling assassins Hazel and Cha-Cha from ‘The Umbrella Academy’. Joey King was surprisingly delightful as the evil Prince, the only lady who gets as much screen space as the men. Because Zazie Beetz has an almost forgettable cameo as a lethal murderess and Karen Fukuhara (Kimiko from ‘The Boys’) was wasted in an even smaller bit-role. Although, given the exciting script, it’s easy to see why actors took up blink-and-miss roles. Hiroyuki Sanada was an absolute show-stealer in his brief cameo as Kimura’s father, also a former mob member, who takes it upon himself to tell Ladybug an interesting story about fate and vengeance. With his sombre dialogue delivery, Sanada manages to strike an emotional chord with the viewer despite the limited time.

While most movies with a 2-hour-long runtime begin to test the viewer’s patience these days, ‘Bullet Train’ was fast-paced, packed with crazy characters, crazier coincidences and exudes a strangely calm vibe for a chaotic violent blood-fest. Vengeance and karma are the two strongest themes of this darkly humorous tale, which dives into some flashback story-telling to give viewers slight breaks from the limited confines of the train. Wish the writers had trimmed down some of the dialogues, because for an violent mafia kind of movie, the characters talk too bloody much. It’s just unsettling sometimes, instead of being entertaining. That said, the climax was quite explosive (literally) and there’s a poetic justice to it that makes the end pretty satisfactory.

It’s a 7.5/10 from me. The film is available to stream on Netflix.

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