REVIEW: ‘Bullet Train’

Brad Pitt finally looks his age, and is still better than anyone younger

August 8, 2022

Like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt has appeared to be on the verge of reversing the irreversible rules of time. Three years ago, when he was 55, he looked positively Greek-godlike as he completed a roofing job shirtless in his justifiably Oscar-winning role in Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. Earlier this year he gleamed like the top of the Chrysler Building in his hilarious turn as a glamorous daredevil adventurer in The Lost City. Now, suddenly, in Bullet Train, he’s a bit wrinkly, he’s a bit puffy, and his plentiful hair doesn’t exactly look fully real. In other words, he looks his age—by which I mean the age of 58 if you’re Brad Pitt. Trust me, I didn’t look anything like him when I was 58 a few years ago, but he is now recognizably in my cohort, whereas before he seemed gorgeously ageless.

Pitt has always had Robert Redford’s looks and Dustin Hoffman’s character commitment. His first Oscar nomination was for 12 Monkeys, in which he played a twitchy psychopath so beautifully—and so unattractively—you couldn’t actually believe it was the same golden beach boy who’d dazzled Geena Davis out of her cash in Thelma and Louise. So it might well be that he allowed himself to look peaked in Bullet Train when he didn’t really have to because he’s playing a man who’s lived a hard life and believes himself to be the unluckiest person on earth. He’s also hilarious, so much so that it would be thrilling to see him attempt an out-and-out comedy at some point. He tosses his one-liners like an ace knuckleballer, with off-speed mastery.

He's the reason to see Bullet Train—well, he and Joey King, the star of a zillion kids’ shows and Netflix teen romcoms you’ve never even heard of. She plays a character called the Prince, who is one of a half-dozen people on a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and is a criminal mastermind who looks like a ninth-grader. Pitt is Ladybug, who does work for hire for some criminal syndicate and whose job is to locate a briefcase with ransom money in it, steal it, and get off the train at the next stop.

He doesn’t, of course, because the Prince is after it too. So are two cockney thugs who brought the briefcase on the train, and a Mexican cartel hitman who’s on the train looking for revenge against someone who poisoned his wife at their wedding, and I’m probably missing two or three others. This movie is John Wick mixed with Bugs Bunny. Its ambition is to be a live-action cartoon in which the fights and deaths and blood and gore are entirely comic. It takes place entirely within a universe of bad guys with their own rules and protocols, though the underworld-building here is just not as entrancing as it was in the first John Wick—with whom it shares a director, David Leitch.

I enjoyed it very much, but fair warning—you have to be able to stomach the gore, which is vivid even if it is purposefully over the top. Mostly, though, Bullet Train reminds you that not only are Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise among the last movie stars, but that there’s no one 30 years younger who could convincingly take on their glamor-boy action parts. Back when they were 30 years younger, such performers were practically a dime a dozen.

Where did they all go?

Published under: Movie Reviews