Bullet Train’s weak homage to Japanese culture is frustrating, but the film is still an entertaining watch nonetheless.

By Esia Forsyth, Third year, English

Set against the backdrop of modern Japan and directed by David Leitch, ridiculous and tumultuous violence ensues in High-speed train (2022) as we meet the characters one by one through glowing intro title cards evoking Tarantino. Like the title ‘High-speed train’ suggests, two hours and six minutes of action solely on a narrow, high-speed vehicle sets the stage for a claustrophobic crash course of jam-packed excitement, weaving its way into an ominous future.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt in High-speed train (2022) // Courtesy of IMDB

The plot begins with Brad Pitt as “Lady-Bug”, an unlucky assassin tasked with a seemingly simple mission to retrieve a briefcase from a bullet train en route to Kyoto. The pursuit is soon complicated by a collection of psychopaths, serial killers and hitmen, all engaged in an eerily similar mission.

Strongly influenced by Deadpool 2 (2018) director Leitch, audiences are unsurprisingly thrust into a world of bloody combat due to the characters’ identical goals. The cartoonish style of the action scenes echoes the train’s anime influences, with one of its distinctive cars dedicated to the fictional anime character Momomon.

As these artistic choices periodically switch between flashing blue and pink color palettes reminiscent of the lights of Tokyo, the attempt at cultural homage seems to fail, seemingly more of an aesthetic convenience than a serious consideration of Japanese culture. The rich world of Japan is weathered, even at the production level, since the filming of the film took place entirely in LA

Brad Pitt and Bad Bunny in High-speed train (2022) // Courtesy of IMDB

While we’re introduced to two fairly prominent characters of Japanese descent (Andrew Koji and Hiroyuki Sanada), it’s the sum total of East Asian actors who appear significantly throughout the film, although they otherwise revolve around the setting of Japan. The stark use of Japanese culture is limited to style, failing to achieve a substantial celebration of culture in the film.

Although superficially it seems like the setting is an integral part of the film, this story could have happened in any other country in the world and had the exact same outcome.

Despite these shortcomings, High-speed train is filled with outstanding visuals as the tumultuous journey continues towards sunrise. Moments of comedy arise in Channing Tatum’s homoerotic cameos, deadly battles interrupted by respectful waitresses, and multifunctional Japanese smart toilets.

Andrew Koji as Yuichi in High-speed train (2022) // Courtesy of IMDB

Fruity-named hitman brothers Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Tyree Henry) deliver a witty repartee with surprisingly detailed knowledge of Thomas the Chariot Engine which is a common source of entertainment.

Even with the script’s occasional tendency to whip a dead horse instead of creating new comedy, the superb acting from every famous face — like Bad Bunny, Joey King, Sandra Bullock, and Zazie Beetz — elevates the lines from labored to suave.

To shoot and watch like a traditional action thriller, this ride full of twists, tongue-in-cheek monologues, dry British humor and surprisingly touching friendship is the perfect Friday night pick.

Tyree Henry as ‘Lemon’ and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as ‘Tangerine’ // Courtesy of IMDB

In a world of thrilling and nuanced performances, High-speed train remains a highly watchable and stylistically varied film that satisfies the appetite for joyous violence.

Beneath the flashy Japanese symbols and memorable Kyoto skylines, however, there’s perhaps an over-embracing and romanticization of an aesthetic rather than a culture, with the film failing to develop the dark comedy genre. already successful.

Featured Image: IMDB


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