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Photo: ‘Bullet Train’
Action films have somewhat become the dumping ground genre for most modern-day Cinema. Many action films, theatrical or streaming, usually feature the characteristics such as a dry script, a boring plot, and “copy and paste” characters. The action itself, which should be the main attraction of these films, is little more than a series of seemingly similar shots in a scene that feels as if it’s only as long as it is just for the sake of including action, contributing almost nothing to the story. The one big exception of the last few years has of course been the ‘John Wick’ films starring Keanu Reeves.
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These more are not only great action films, but also great films in general. David Leitch, one of the co-directors of the first film, went on to direct ‘Atomic Blonde’, ‘Deadpool 2’, and the ‘Fast and the Furious’ spinoff, ‘Hobbs & Shaw’. These films, some of which are better than others, have maintained Leitch’s distinctive style when directing action as well as keeping his actors on their toes to actually listen to each other when shooting a scene.
With ‘Bullet Train’ thankfully, Leitch preserves this unique style to deliver an entertaining, vivid, and wonderfully violent film. There are a few moments where the story could’ve picked up the pace a bit and some of the humor did cross the line from being pleasantly over-the-top to being outright phony, but the film is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The film is directed by David Leitch and stars Brad Pitt, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Sandra Bullock, and Andrew Koji.
Wondrously Ridiculous Action
The film is based on a novel written by Japanese author Kotaro Isaka called ‘Maria Beetle’. It is difficult to imagine that the book features and highlights as many vivid action sequences as the film does, but it is definitely a big backbone for the movie nonetheless. The film has no shortage of action sequences, yet almost none of them feature a dull moment. A big reason is how the characters use their environment to their advantage, often in the most absurd and gorrey ways possible. This has become a refreshing attribute in Leitch’s films and hopefully one that stays with him throughout his career. Leitch seemingly understands that watching two guys punch and kick each other back and forth for ten minutes straight can get very boring after just a few seconds. Instead, when Leitch places two characters in a particular setting and thrusts them into a fight scene, he understands that they would likely use whatever is at their immediate disposal in the most effective way possible, regardless of how ridiculous it may look. In doing so, Leitch makes the action sequences a lot more believable in addition to being entertaining.
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Something else that Leitch understands and seems to make sure his actors do as well, is that before, throughout, and after an action scene, there are other events taking place simultaneously. Whenever two people get into a physical altercation, their own bodies and their environment are both disrupted, causing other things to happen, oftentimes to the difficulty of those fighting. This holds the viewer’s engagement, as they can draw their attention to everything else unfolding while not being drawn away from the actual conflict. But perhaps the most important ingredient in Leitch’s action film formula is his decision to dilute his films to feature a handful of short, crisp, fast-paced, action scenes as opposed to long fifteen-minute sequences. By doing this, Leitch keeps the audience from getting bored by keeping everything fresh and unexpected while at the same time giving the story and characters the attention that they need.
Vibrant And Exuberant Acting
Every single actor on screen brought no shortage of energy to their own characters. Pitt, who plays a down-on-his-luck assassin tasked with retrieving a briefcase, is never boring to watch. Being the rare actor that can bring otherworldly charisma to almost any role, Pitt carries more than his fair share of the weight in making this film as entertaining as it is. This is not to take away from the actors who also brought everything they had to their respective roles. Bullock, who plays Pitt’s handler and is primarily regulated to a voice role throughout the film, brings a good amount of fun banter between her character and Pitt’s. Johnson and Henry’s characters as two sibling assassins were an entertaining duo with many unique quirks to them. Bad Bunny, despite having a small role in the film as a character named “The Wolf”, brought any and all acting chops he had, and without going into spoilers, his scene with Pitt’s character highlighted everything enjoyable about Leitch’s style.
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‘Bullet Train’ – A Few Drawbacks In A Solid Script
One of the areas where the film could have been better was in the realm of pacing. The movie is called ‘Bullet Train’ which should imply that speed might play a major role in the film and it mostly does. However, there are a few moments, particularly in the first ten minutes of the film, that ran a bit longer than they needed to. Another aspect of the film that occasionally falls flat is some of the humor. To be clear, nine out of ten times the humor sticks the landing perfectly. The film embraces its over-the-top nature to its benefit. There were some comedic moments towards the end, particularly that crossed from being refreshingly absurd to just come off as phony and almost eye-roll inducing, almost as if the movie becomes too full of itself to realize such. Thankfully, these moments are very few.
Overall, this movie may not go down as one of the best films of 2022, but it is an enjoyable and wildly entertaining two-hours and a solid action film all around.
Cast: Brad Pitt, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Sandra Bullock, Andrew Koji
Written by: Zak Olkewicz, (based on the novel by) Kotaro Isaka
Directed by: David Leitch
By Nader Chamas
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Nader Chamas is an aspiring television writer who seeks to fuse thought provoking progressive ideals into the films, shows, and stories that he loves. Having graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Screenwriting, Nader seeks to use his writing to advance causes that do not get enough attention or input across mainstream media. Like most, Nader has his own share of his favorite franchises and stories across pop culture. However, he seeks to contribute timely and relevant topics into these stories as well as in his own original material. This is why Nader’s analysis of popular films and tv shows matches The Hollywood Insider’s practice of discussing entertainment from a socially cognizant and critical perspective.