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Brad Pitt, bad luck, big fun: 'Bullet Train' review

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
Brad Pitt, bad luck, big fun: 'Bullet Train' review
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt in a fight scene on "Bullet Train"
Columbia Pictures

MANILA, Philippines — Brad Pitt returns to action as he stars as an unlucky assassin in David Leitch's "Bullet Train," based on the novel by "Maria Beetle" by Kotaro Isaka.

Pitt's character is given the codename Ladybug and has the simple task of intercepting a briefcase on the world's fastest train. This mission, however, intertwines with those of other assassins who somehow have boarded the train as well.

This is Pitt's first major acting job since his Oscar-winning role in "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" and "Ad Astra," both in 2019, unless you count his bit role in "The Lost City" earlier this year; either way it's clear that he hasn't lost his charm.

It also bodes well that Leitch — who was Pitt's former stunt double — has a significant background in action having helmed "Atomic Blonde," "Deadpool 2," and "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw," and it shows in his newest outing.

"Bullet Train" has very flashy action choreography, built on the backdrop of inventive production design and cinematography and as flashy visual effects to give the illusion it really is on a Japanese bullet train. Each fight appears fresh, innovative, and never dull.

Unfortunately, everything else derails as the plot twists pile up and audiences are expected to jump at every surprise. Viewers are left waiting for the next fight sequence as passengers disembark.

Related: Brad Pitt's stunt double is now his director

Pitt is accompanied by a sprawling ensemble cast that includes Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Joey King, Andrew Koji, Zazie Beetz, Michael Shannon, the voice of "The Lost City" co-star Sandra Bullock, a wasted Logan Lerman, and the rapper Bad Bunny.

Each of them are given quirky personalities — Henry's character has a fascination with Thomas the Tank Engine — yet the most compelling among them is the Japanese great Hiroyuki Sanada, especially during the inevitable moment he wields a katana.

Also coming as surprises are cameos by uncredited actors, which no doubt Pitt, Leitch, and Bullock all had a hand in making happen, but these, too, never feel earned (though one is quite hilarious to witness).

The action scenes remain the movie's strongest suit, even if Zak Olkewicz's screenplay adaptation makes them come off as cartoonish, at least they are never exhausting like when other action films try too hard.

Pitt clearly still has gas in the tank to continue taking roles of different kinds, though he might do better in a journey less comical as "Bullet Train" attempts to be.

"Bullet Train" premieres in Philipine cinemas on August 10.

RELATED: Brad Pitt wears skirt, shrugs off retirement at 'Bullet Train' premieres

AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON

BRAD PITT

BULLET TRAIN

DAVID LEITCH

HIROYUKI SANADA

JOEY KING

LOGAN LERMAN

MICHAEL SHANNON

SANDRA BULLOCK

THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE

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