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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 30, 2022



AMONG the senior Hollywood actors, the two who are still successfully active are Tom Cruise, 60 years old, still a topgrossing actor with his “Mission Impossible” and “Top Gun: Maverick” movies, and Keanu Reeves, 57, with his John Wick series. 

Brad Pitt, 58, could have been in this league but he doesn’t have a franchise movie. His ace is that he has won an Oscar, which remains elusive to both Tom and Keanu. 

Now, Brad tries to foray into the action genre with “Bullet Train”, released as a U.S. summer popcorn movie that obviously hopes to also be a franchise. 

The problem is that it’s not as successful as Tom and Keanu’s films.

Directed by former Brad Pitt’s stunt double David Leitch, who did “Atomic Bombshell” and “Deadpool 2”, it’s based on a 2010 Japanese novel. 

It has a big ensemble cast and the premise has great promise. Various top criminals-assassins are all brought together on board Japan’s world renowned fastest train: the Bullet Train. 

Each of them has his or her own hidden agenda but soon, it appears that someone is orchestrating a bigger scenario for all of them. 

Brad is a hired assassin whose code name is Ladybug and feels he’s hounded by misfortune as so many bad things have happened to him lately. He is assigned by his unseen handler (with whom he talks on the cellphone all the time) to board the train in Tokyo and retrieve a briefcase inside the train that’s going to Kyoto. It contains gold bars and lots of money.

Also in the train is Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), who is looking for an unknown criminal who has pushed his son off a rooftop. The culprit is a young woman who calls herself The Prince (former child star Joey King in her biggest role to date after starring in teen romcoms). 

She pretends to be an innocent schoolgirl and is also in the train with her own agenda. 

She reveals to Yuichi that she actually pushed his son in order to entice him to get on the train and be a part of an elaborate plan to kill a master criminal known as the White Death.

Tasked to transport the briefcase are supposedly two brothers called Lemon, who’s black (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson.) 

But they’re dumb enough to just leave the briefcase in a stack of luggage where Brad is able to get it so easily.  

Brad is then confronted by a Latino killer, the Wolf (Benito Ocasio), who claims Brad poisoned his wife on their wedding day. But it turns out the real killer is a woman named the Hornet (Zazie Beets), who has earlier also poisoned the son of the White Death (Logan Lerman) right inside the train.

More complications occur when Yuichi’s dad, the Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), also gets on board the train with his own motive. 

Finally, White Death himself (Michael Shannon) boards the train for a final showdown with everyone. More secrets are then revealed. 

The Prince says she is actually the White Death’s daughter and the White Death explains that he intentionally brought all the killers inside the bullet train because they’re all in some way responsible for the death of his wife, except for Brad Pitt who was just substituting for the real killer, who is revealed to be Ryan Reynolds in an unbilled cameo. 

All the ruckus inside the train eventually causes it to hurtle out of control and it crashes. 

The unlucky Brad turns out to ironically be a fortunate passenger as he survives and is fetched by his handler, who turns out to be Sandra Bullock.

Also appearing in a guest role is Channing Tatum as a train passenger. 

It will be recalled that when Sandra and Channing starred in the action-comedy, “The Lost City”, Brad Pitt also appeared as a special guest in it. 

We remember when Brad Pitt played his breakout role in the feminist buddy film, “Thelma and Louise” in 1991, as a young drifter who turns out to be a thief, his star wattage was really so overwhelming everyone predicted he’d be a big star. 

He was definitely the top heartthrob of the 90s in such films as “A River Runs Through It” and “Legends of the Fall”. 

He buffed up for his role as the chiselled Achilles in “Troy”. 

Other hits include “Seven”, “Benjamin Button”, “Moneyball” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with his wife to be, Angelina Jolie. But he also did quirky films like “Fight Club” and “12 Monkeys”. 

The closest he come to having a hit franchise was in “Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13”. 

He did films that didn’t really help his career, like “Ad Astra”, “Jesse James”, “Burn After Reading”, “The Tree of Life”. After winning the Oscar for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, he now seems to want to be a big box office star in “Bullet Train”.

The “Bullet Train” runs along mainly on the power of Brad Pitt’s magnetic charisma. 

It features great production design with a colorful visual asthetic, great action set pieces, cartoonish violence, splendid stunts and disaster sequences. 

But instead of speeding with the breakneck pace of its title, it’s often bogged down by many so expository flashbacks that the film often loses its momentum. 

As a supposed star vehicle for Brad Pitt, it doesn’t really work that well and looks more like a cheap imitation of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino. 

With so many characters making the narrative quite convoluted, it aims to connect the dots involving all the characters in a very complicated and contrived way. 

The film is supposed to be a wild ride offering stupid fun, but it actually gives very shallow humor and leaves a lot to be desired. 

It’s just not that witty and not impressive enough to start a new chapter in Brad’s career. 

He actually seems to be the perfect actor for this kind of zany action-comedy on a speeding train, but those who made it fail to keep the train running well and what we have is actually more of a train wreck that even Brad and the other cast members cannot save.