Bullet Train is an action comedy about an assassin who has to deal with many enemies while riding a Japanese bullet train. The film is directed by David Leitch and based on a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz that adapts the Japanese novel Maria Beetle (published in English as Bullet Train) by Kōtarō Isaka. The trailers for Bullet Train definitely encouraged you to dig in and dig in I did. I really liked the movie but thought it was one of the wildest I’ve seen in a long time. Well done David Leitch — see below, some of the controversies that plague this movie.
A former professional assassin, codenamed Ladybug (Brad Pitt), returns to work with a newly positive attitude. Because the usual contact, Carver (Ryan Reynolds), is forced to call out due to illness, Ladybug is tasked by his handler, Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock), to collect a briefcase aboard a bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto. Unbeknownst to Ladybug, three other killers are onboard: hitmen brothers Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and a deceptively innocent schoolgirl The Prince (Joey King). Tangerine and Lemon have been hired by White Death (Michael Shannon), head of the world’s largest crime syndicate, who seized control of the Japanese underworld years before.
Having completed their task to recover the White Death’s kidnapped son (Logan Lerman) and the briefcase containing his $10 million ransom, the brothers prepare to deliver both in Kyoto. The Prince summons another assassin, Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), to the train, having pushed his young son off a building to motivate him. With an associate at the hospital ready to finish the boy off, the Prince forces Kimura to cooperate with her plan. Yet, another assassin The Wolf (Benito A. Martínez Ocasio), arrives seeking revenge for the deaths of his wife and cartel organization, who were all poisoned at his wedding. Ladybug runs into the Wolf’s intended target, The Hornet (Zazie Beetz) — the poisoner who massacred his wedding. Kimura’s father, The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), boards the train and reveals himself as a former Yakuza lieutenant whose wife and clan were killed in White Death’s rise to power.
Are there enough assassins for you? I am Stopping here, and believe me there are lots more craziness and action. I don’t know how they were able to keep this story together but I must confess, it was professionally and well done. The action was wild and the story was, of course, unbelievable. Brad Pitt and the rest of the cast were brilliant and made this comedy of errors funny with a bit of slapstick. I enjoyed the movie, which was a refreshing escape from all the goings on that’s going on in the US. Of course, bullet Train is not for kids but adults will probably enjoy the fun. As of August 7, 2022, Bullet Train has grossed $30.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $32.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $62.5 million. On Rotten Tomatoes, 54% of 232 critics gave the film a positive review with an average rating of 5.6/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads: “Bullet Train‘s colorful cast and high-speed action are almost enough to keep things going after the story runs out of track.” Bullet Train is currently in theaters — Check It Out!
The castings of several non-Asian actors, including Brad Pitt and Joey King, prompted accusations of whitewashing as their characters were Japanese in Kōtarō Isaka’s novel. David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League, criticized the castings, explaining that while the American adaptation would have been appropriate if the setting took place in the United States, the filmmakers chose to keep the novel’s Japanese setting while keeping the Japanese characters in the film’s background, strengthening charges of whitewashing. Inoue also questioned the actors’ allyship to the Asian community for knowingly accepting whitewashed roles and further criticized the film for pushing the “belief that Asian actors in the leading roles cannot carry a blockbuster” despite the recent successes of Asian-led films such as Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Despite being cast in the film, King previously said, “I do not believe a white woman should play a character of color. Not me or any other white woman for that matter.”