Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Nottingham Castle

Film Review: Bullet Train

4 August 22 words: George White

After racking up the dollar with Deadpool 2 and creating an action hero to rival James Bond in John Wick, David Leitch is back with a bang - and a bullet train... 

Director: David Leitch
Starring: Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King
Running time: 126 minutes

From a film like Bullet Train - which follows a group of assassins on board a, um, bullet train as they stab each other, shoot each other, and basically kill each other in every way imaginable - you’d expect something of a pulse-racing, action-packed, set-piece-filled big screen experience that barely gives you a second to breathe from the opening scene to the closing credits. 

And, on this front, this David Leitch-directed blockbuster certainly delivers. Taking the slick, stylish and inventive fight choreography that encouraged millions across the globe to check out Deadpool 2 and John Wick and ramping it all up a level, this definitely delivers the violent fun that was promised in the trailer - coughing up scene-after-scene of blood-splattering, bone-crunching, eyeball-exploding action that will have you both punching the air and cringing in second-hand agony. 

Yet it is on pretty much every other front that Bullet Train grinds to a halt. You see, as soon as Leitch and writer Zak Olkewicz move away from the action to try and tell a meaningful story, you quickly lose interest, with the pair struggling to pack an ounce of originality into this tired, familiar narrative. Fridging is also proving to be something of a concerning regularity in Leitch’s films - in both John Wick and Deadpool 2, female characters are cast aside to add emotional weight to the male protagonists’ stories, and this film is all too willing to embrace that backwards narrative device with open arms. 

While Bullet Train will have you covered if you’re after some over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, Kinsgman-esque action, you will have to power through pretty much every other aspect of this film to enjoy it

He and Olkewicz also struggle to put together a joke worthy of anything more than a faint smile, with the comedic beats in this film falling flat at nearly every turn. Running gags - which barely elicit a chuckle the first time they’re used - are hammered home with relentless force, with one particular joke, centred around citrus-based codenames, feeling particularly grating. 

Almost all of Bullet Train’s cast - which includes Hollywood heavyweights like Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Joey King - are surprisingly mediocre, too. It’s hard to think of one star who doesn’t make some questionable decisions with their performances - Taylor-Johnson feels like he’s been plucked from a secondary schooler’s Guy Ritchie fan film; Brian Tyree Henry seems to forget he’s meant to have a Cockney accent at regular intervals - and having Pitt in the lead role feels more of a ploy to pique the public’s interest than an inspired bit of casting (seriously, he’s too cool to play the fumbling fuck-up - it visibly pains him to act like a goof). 

So, while Bullet Train will have you covered if you’re after some over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, Kinsgman-esque action, you will have to power through pretty much every other aspect of this film to enjoy it. Had the script, performances or humour been anywhere near the quality of Leitch’s creative camerawork, this could have been the blockbuster of the summer - it’s a Pitty they all fell short.

Did you know? The first trailer for Bullet Train featured Bee Gee's song Stayin' Alive in three languages: Japanese, Spanish, and English.

Bullet Train is now available in cinemas 

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now

Bierkeller - Nottingham Hill Carnival