‘Bullet Train’ Review: Ride and Die
If Leitch doesn’t always work within the train’s tight quarters — each car a separate film set — as imaginatively as he should it’s partly because he’s too busy juggling the story’s many busy churning parts, including a glut of flashbacks. Again and again, the movie cuts away from the main action to fill in one of the characters’ backgrounds, which are never as engaging as Pitt et al. running daffily amok. These flashbacks add negligible texture and even less interest. Worse, because he repeatedly blasts back to the past, Leitch never manages to build sustained narrative momentum inside the train, which badly flattens the movie overall.
“Bullet Train” doesn’t have any ideas, beyond the geometric problems presented by all its bodies jostling within small spaces, which means that there’s not much to think about other than how good Pitt looks and how the violence lands. Certainly, much of the creative energy here has gone into finding different ways for dudes to die — and this is an almost all-male death-a-thon — or to kill one another. Some die by the sword, some are poisoned (cue the bleeding eyes), while others rocket off this mortal coil via explosions or blows that send them spiraling. One man’s throat is slit with a knife while another is shot in the neck. That poor soul vainly tries to stanch the bloody geyser that spurts like water from a fountain.
You’re not meant to care. Most of the characters are disposable, interchangeable minions who scurry around before they’re inevitably exterminated by someone else with bigger guns and brains. As you’d expect from the title, many of these underlings are shot to death with handguns and long guns of assorted sizes. Characters are riddled, shredded, annihilated; one guy loses half his face — bang-bang, ha-ha.