The ‘Bullet Train’ moves very fast, but it’s a thrill ride you can’t miss

“Bullet Train” certainly moves at an appropriate pace, with Brad Pitt leading a wide-ranging cast. But with a mashup of styles that come off like a Quentin Tarantino wannabe — from the music to the visuals — the breakneck action is offset by a smart-alecky tone that proves uneven and occasionally over-the-top. With a dash of “Deadpool” thrown in for good measure.

The latter influence comes as no surprise, as director David Leitch oversaw the “Deadpool” sequel in addition to working on the “John Wick” and “Fast and Furious” franchises. Echoes of Tarantino also add to the presence of Pitt, who recently won an Oscar for “Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood,” and has displayed his playful macho side in that director’s films.

However, the story — adapted by screenwriter Zak Olkewicz from a Japanese novel — lacks the fuel to keep that tone consistent. Even elaborate flashbacks to take the narrative out of its confined space cannot add enough intrigue to the machinations of these strangers on the train.

Joining the story in progress, Pitt’s hapless hitman (codenamed Ladybug) boards a bullet train in Japan with orders to retrieve a briefcase full of cash. Alas, he’s not the only skilled assassin on board, but each follows different marching orders, with confusion over who’s pulling the strings and plenty of miscommunication along the way.

While Pitt’s world-weary character wants to finish the assignment and get off, others have more personal motives. From a mysterious young woman (Joey King) to a pair of operatives called “the twins” (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry), Benito A. The various categories range from a revenge-minded killer played by Martinez Ocasio. Bad Bunny.

That doesn’t skimp on the surface of the cast, including cameos meant to give audiences little payoff. The trade-off, however, is that some recognizable faces appear too briefly to register.

The claustrophobic setting actually works to its advantage in presenting fight sequences that are brutal, bloody and frequently played for laughs. The interrupted showdown in “Kill Bill” is mimicked by multiples, including the hilarious puzzle of how to try to kill someone without breaking the train’s “silent car” rules.

Watch the Bullet Train Trailer here:

For the most part, “Bullet Train” underscores the challenges of trying to infuse this kind of film with the virtues of a live-action cartoon, even if the goal is two hours of innocent escapism.

It’s not just another sequel that would seem cause for celebration in this genre itself; Still, the movie doesn’t feel remotely original. Perhaps that’s why it’s hard to recommend catching this “train” in terms of punching a ticket to the theater, even if the resulting ride is less than thrilling.

“Bullet Train” opens in US theaters on August 5. It is rated R.

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