Brad Pitt’s “Bullet Train” Only Shoots Blanks

Of John Wick and Atomic Blonde at Deadpool 2 and Fast & Furious Gifts: Hobbs & ShawDavid Leitch’s career trajectory has been towards greater joking, and that path reaches its high point – or, more accurately, low point – with High-speed trainan adaptation of Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka’s 2010 novel that leans vigorously into R-rated murder and mayhem humor. More than slightly resembling Joe Carnahan’s 2006 fiasco Smokin’ Ace, Leitch’s latest is a gleeful bloodbath played for laughs, the problem being that the more it leans towards goofiness, the less it delivers. Brad Pitt’s game-leading performance notwithstanding, it’s the cinematic epitome of a tough try.

Adapted by Zak Olkewicz, High-speed train (August 6) takes place on a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto whose passengers are mostly hired assassins (with cute nicknames) of all creeds, colors and nationalities. Leading this class is Ladybug (Pitt), who is hired by her master (Sandra Bullock, in a mostly voice role) to board the train and retrieve a silver briefcase her employer covets. This is Ladybug’s first assignment since a hiatus in which his therapist encouraged him to stay optimistic, find inner peace and embrace the Zen self-help platitudes that Pitt spouts with gee positivity. -whiz from a newly minted true believer or, at least, a budding positive student. Still, he can’t help but think he’s been bitten by a snake (something that will become literal later on), and that feeling is heightened once his journey begins and, after locating his target, he’s attacked by The Wolf (Bad Bunny), the first of his many murderous adversaries.

As Ladybug struggles to achieve her goal, High-speed train also focuses on a variety of other killers desperate to be colored. The most insistent of this group are Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), a couple of British “twins” who dress stylishly and bicker constantly. Lemon can’t be quiet about Thomas the Tank Engine, which he thinks the series is a metaphor for life and whose characters epitomize all human types, and Olkewicz’s screenplay drives that gag into the ground despite the fact that it’s never, for a single second, smart or funny. Henry and Taylor-Johnson are a handsome brotherly pair at odds, but their heavily accented mile-a-minute banter is unbearably labored; it’s like they’re auditioning for one of the countless late ’90s crime movies spawned by Quentin Tarantino reservoir dogs and pulp Fiction.

There are other deviant psychopaths who populate High-speed train, including The Prince (Joey King), a young girl responsible for pushing a young boy off the roof of a department store in order to lure the child’s father (Andrew Koji) onto the train and use him as a pawn in a murderous scheme. King wears preppie clothes, sports dark eyeliner and poses more than she drinks, which can’t be said about Henry and Taylor-Johnson, whom Leitch seems to have told to do their best Looney Tunes schtick . Pitt operates in an equally excessive vein, his nonsense about nonviolence (“Hurt people hurt people”) trying to absurdly contradict his knack for ending other people’s lives. Pitt’s performance feels like a marriage of John Wick and his stoner from true romance (or The Dude by Jeff Bridges), who could win if given something fun to do or say.

High-speed train is a frantic, restless, and cacophonous cartoon, laced with Japanese animated flourishes (including a black-light-drenched train car where an actor wears a large, billowing animated character costume) and an aggressively over-the-top aesthetic. Leitch’s camera twirls, hisses, spins and tumbles with abandon, the action switches between manic melee and gun-toting mayhem and slow-motion parrying, all in the form of title cards (filled with Japanese text) and even more exciting flashbacks. . It’s all bathed in bold, bright colors and set to music in unexpected ways – an English punk track here, a Japanese pop song there, and a country ballad thrown in for good measure – but to an inappreciable ending. Even Leitch’s signature fight choreography gets lost in the dazzling mix; there is not a single memorable skirmish amid this sea of ​​quick cuts and boring banter.

The briefcase these assassins seek is a MacGuffin that is as insignificant as the underlying reason they end up at each other’s throats, and yet High-speed train ends up having to unravel its various narrative threads in order to arrive at its mind-blowing conclusion. It is, however, impossible to care about any of these players or their ultimate fate, regardless of the routine references to luck and fate, two forces that enter into the equation of this saga at random intervals. and therefore meaningless. One of the main issues here is that, despite the oft-discussed notions of a bigger plan at work, it never feels like someone is at the helm of this meteoric enterprise. The movie strangles one in the service of random, bloody, spitting carnage, and while there’s poisoning, stabbing, beatings and nastiness galore in this stew, what stands out are the missing ingredients: comedic inspiration and a tone that won’t cause almost instant exhaustion.

Pitt’s performance feels like a marriage of John Wick and his “True Romance” stoner (or Jeff Bridges’ The Dude), which could be a winner if given something fun to do or say.

High-speed train is Leitch’s third consecutive attempt to fuse powerful brutality with rat-a-tat-tat silliness, and in this case, the emphasis on the latter proves so great that the former provides almost no thrill. Men and women fight, jump on trains, run through doors, fight with snakes and wrestle with these fancy but confusing multi-functional Japanese toilets, but in the end there is almost nothing to show. The affectation is all-consuming and overwhelming, crushing any flicker of invention and, more importantly, derailing the balance of hardcore and irony that Leitch desires. Plenty of polished actors huff and puff throughout this two-hour ride, the finale of which not only features the appearance of a stoic (and half-bored) Michael Shannon, but also, fittingly, a head-on collision that Do not stop. things are no longer progressing, and they all come out more worn out.

Unable to conceive a comparison for his wretched state, Pitt’s Ladybug opines that bad luck follows him “like…something of the spirit”. His inability to find an appropriate joke is High-speed train clean, causing it to crash and burn long before it reaches its disappointing destination.

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