Still from Bullet Train — Ladybug and Tangerine on train
The movie has a weirdly fitting mix of cast members. Image: Sony Pictures/Promotion
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Watching Brad Pitt’s unlucky character, Ladybug, stumble around a Shinkansen train in David Leitch’s new movie, Bullet Train, is entertaining, but not memorable. 

Like any Leitch movie, Bullet Train is a fast-paced, adrenaline rush of a film that will keep you on your toes. The film is an adaptation of Kōtarō Isaka’s Japanese novel Maria Beetle, translated to English as Bullet Train, where Brad Pitt plays a former assassin on a mission to steal a briefcase filled with ransom money. Multiple violent encounters disrupt his mission as fate forces him to cross paths with a number of other assassins attempting to steal the same briefcase — all for different reasons.  

Although the movie takes place on a high-speed train, watching it feels more like you’re on a rollercoaster as you experience dramatic ups and downs. At times, Ladybug’s journey feels like a no-win scenario as you watch him relentlessly try to find his way off of what feels like a never-ending train ride of violence. The film is sometimes a little confusing, with random deaths, misunderstandings, and a plethora of action.

It’s somehow both unpredictable and predictable at the same time. The Elder’s vendetta against the White Death’s rise to power is an all too familiar trope. A new underling betrays a major crime boss and causes chaos, which in turn triggers a revenge plot. Don’t get me wrong — I love mafia-revenge movies, but using this trope as the backbone of the entire film felt lazy.

The film’s assassins, each with their own vendettas, elaborate backstories, and jam-packed fighting scenes, are reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill — only if it was more silly, dizzying, and far less unique. The movie dishes out a number of plot twists right out of the gate, and it ultimately parodies the cult classic. 

Perhaps Bullet Train would have been a better homage to the 2003 martial arts film if Zak Olkewicz had given some of the assassins some actual screen time, instead of killing them off just minutes after introducing them.  

That being said, I get it — killing off the expendable characters allows the movie to be what it was created to be: cheap thrills and absurd comedy. 

Bullet Train‘s saving grace was the banter between the most likeable characters, Ladybug, Lemon, and Tangerine, packed in between action-packed fight scenes. It helps that it was also set against a unique background of futuristic shots on the route from Tokyo to Kyoto. 

Overall, the plot, characters, and action are just a little too familiar. Bullet Train is wildly entertaining, but it will almost definitely remind you of something you’ve seen before, whether it’s the old-school martial arts or the Tarantino aesthetics, and it ultimately lacks that something extra to make it worth remembering.


  • Grace is a second-year political science student joining the Fulcrum for the 2022-23 publishing year. She has experience in public service, and has volunteered in advocacy campaigns and grassroots initiatives uplifting youth and women. She is passionate about the arts, community organizing, and politics. When she’s not studying or working, you can find her reading or rewatching Seinfeld episodes.