by Geoffrey Churchman

An action-comedy is the simplest label for this, but the comedy is more in the Guy Ritchie/Quentin Tarantino vein, rather than loud in-you-face presentations that typifies American comedy as the action provides that. The Director of this adaptation of a cult Japanese novel, David Leitch, has clearly learned from both these two celebrated directors, and puts the action on steroids.

In a nutshell, there are five paid assassins on a night high-speed bullet train going from Tokyo to Kyoto who all want to have interaction with each other, but not simultaneously. The ‘bullet’ in this case has more than one significance, although several other methods of execution are deployed. Being in Japan, naturally there are samurai swords, but also the obligatory explosions, knives, bottles and other hard objects, plus good old manual combat with homage to Kung-Fu. There is even a Boomslang stolen from a zoo so you get a snake on a train as well!

It’s a bit hard to sum up the plotline given how many characters are involved, so I won’t try, except to say they are all villains in different ways; all get announced with graphics in English and Japanese. They have a mix of ethnicity and a mix of accents — Japanese of course, as well as British (Cockney) and American, mostly by Brad Pitt who plays someone wanting to quit this business and communicates by cellphone with a supervisor who turns out to be Sandra Bullock. Her screen appearance is much shorter than the voice heard. One plotline feature is a briefcase as appeared in the movie Ronin (whose title had a Japanese meaning even if the setting was France) and does a little more than just be a mystery for the viewer.

You get a good tour through a modern Japanese bullet train which are quiet, smooth, punctual and very comfortably appointed. They are probably all stage sets you see, though — fitting crews and equipment into real trains would be very cramped. A lot of computer generated imagery was also clearly involved.

It all works well: the cartoon-style action and violence are intended for entertainment, not shock value, at least most of the time, the characters are developed enough to be more than 2-dimenional and plenty of developments and twists maintain engagement.

A mafia mask that seems ideal for Jacindanistas. 🙂

Bullet Train (127 minutes) is screening at the Shoreline.