jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
When the trailer for Bullet Train first erupted at my local AMC, I was sitting in the theater with my two best friends. We were watching something and when the trailer came on, we were all pretty attentive and interested. We typically turn to each other after every trailer and see if the movie is worth seeing together – a thumbs up indicating yes, a thumbs down indicating no, and a middle thumb meaning if there was nothing else. We all gave a thumbs up. But funny enough, this trailer, this stupid, fucking trailer continued to play after every FUCKING movie after that first time – and no, I'm not kidding. And as we saw the trailer, our excitement for this decreased rapidly. It had gotten to the point where we’d beg the Movie Gods to avoid showing us this stupid trailer, but the Gods never answered and we were forced to watch this trailer roughly 20 times before this movie finally came out.
Bullet Train is an embarrassing work of proportions that I even can’t explain properly – it's been a day since I've seen it and I still can’t quite articulate why I absolutely loathed almost every minute of the film, so maybe this review will open the doors for me to find closure – but what is immediately apparent is that Bullet Train is completely ignorant of its own horrible miscalculations. It's a work that believes in itself that it’s a cultural reset, a work that’s meant to tap into the popcorn entertainment vehicle urge that we all need scratched, but it’s not even prime-time popcorn entertainment: it’s an empty work that operates as a wonderful example of how dire the Action genre is nowadays and why so many of us gravitate towards stuff that’s not even remotely like this. And seeing the director of this film and the films he’s made, it’s hard not to find this a scandalous affair.
This is clearly trying to imitate the visual language and extravagant underworld of John Wick and while this is based off a book, film remains a visual medium and what we’re seeing here isn’t a failure against a book but of a filmmaker who believes in capitalizing on the worst aspects of cinema with what is possibly the star pupil of the Action genre. Just because your film has a visual style that mirrors Keanu’s Babayaga rampage, doesn’t mean you justify its existence. Bullet Train is littered with Wickisms that ultimately exist for people to find comfort in something being semi-familiar to John Wick. But underneath it all, it’s still a soulless example of how far the genre has fallen, one where “Fucknuts” and “Shitballs” echo throughout a train as blood and guts spill out, where cameos exist only to sell tickets because [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] are appearing in this.
One Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends loving character isn’t enough to spare this from being one of the most unbearably annoying films I've probably ever sat through. Hearing Brian Tyree Henry explain the concept of Diesel and his battle with Duck (references that I still understand to this very day, you know if you know) isn’t enough to cover up the ridiculously bad accents. Brad Pitt’s clearly having fun making this, but it’s not enough for me to grimace at the truly terrible CGI that’s so distracting as the narrative progresses into more intense and insane action sequences. Bullet Train could almost be classified as a pop culture work, one that reflects upon the genre and culture of which it’s portraying, but it feels so forced and disingenuous, that it clearly wants to rank amongst the top dogs but in reality, it will be destined to be forgotten as time goes on. Anti-Pop art, but even I can’t deny that this egregiously awful work isn’t fascinating to break down as a work that encompasses all the failures of the Action genre in one messy film.
This is as if some peabrain watched Takashi Miike’s yakuza films and decided to make an American version – an absolutely pathetic work of unimaginable annoyance.