A group of disparate and colorful assassins are placed on a speeding bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto in order to complete a job from a mysterious benefactor. Brad Pitt stars as the perennially unlucky retired hitman, Ladybug, in this entertaining but overly convoluted action comedy from director David Leitch, one of the minds behind the John Wick series and several other major action films from the past decade.
The film’s plot is filled with double crosses and revelations that makes it nearly impossible to describe the events in an efficient manner, but the film is saved by some of the performances in the sprawling ensemble cast, as well as a string of exciting and inventive action sequences. Pitt is clearly having a great time with the follow-up to his Oscar win for the excellent Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, giving his best rendition of The Dude from The Big Lebowski and does a serviceable job of holding together the film’s many threads. Elsewhere on the train we see bickering British brothers Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the silent but deadly Wolf (Bad Bunny), the poison specialist Hornet (Zazie Beetz) and The Prince (Joey King), a mercenary posing as an innocent British schoolgirl. For the most part, these actors are able to bring these characters to life with a flourish, though King fails to live up to the task of making her villainous character threatening in the slightest and is unsuccessful in giving a convincing English accent—the young actress has a lot of work to do in order to keep up with her contemporaries in this incredibly talented generation of female performers working today. I predict that she will lose out on many roles to the likes of Florence Pugh and Saoirse Ronan. Taylor-Johnson steals many of the scenes he is in as the comic relief, while Henry—who as anyone who has seen in FX’s Atlanta would know is one of the best actors working today—is strong in his role, in spite of also having an unconvincing British accent.
While Bullet Train is entertaining and features several laugh out loud sequences, it crumbles somewhat under the weight of its overly convoluted plot and the burden of being one of the few big budget, original movies released this summer. Though if you’re a fan of the action genre, it is worth checking out.
B.J. “Ryan from The Office” Novak makes his directorial debut with this comedic thriller about a disconnected would-be podcaster who heads to the Texas heartland in search of a career-making story about our time. Novak writes, directs and stars as Ben, a selfish New York-based journalist who enjoys having casual relationships with a range of women. When Ben receives an unexpected phone call from a Texan named Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook), he is mistaken for a former boyfriend of his sister, who has seemingly died of an opioid overdose, when in actuality she was just one of Ben’s many hookups. After being unable to talk his way out of attending the funeral, Ben flies out to rural Texas and soon learns of Ty’s theory that his sister was, in fact, murdered, and he needs Ben’s help to find vengeance.
Novak’s script has some high aspirations, tackling some of the big issues that pervade this generation; ranging from the opioid epidemic to hookup culture, the general incompetence of law enforcement and the pursuit of fame and notoriety that has become a mainstay of social media and ties it in with the usual fish out of water tropes you’d expect to see from a story about a coastal elite making his way through flyover country. Novak is able to coax strong performances out of the majority of the sprawling cast, with Holbrook showing a natural comedic sense and timing and Ashton Kutcher giving what is probably the best performance of his career as a local country music mogul who appears to be far wiser than the other members of this rural community but may also have a hidden sinister side to him. Novak is arguably the weak link of the film’s cast; he is able to deliver the deadpan dialogue when called for but struggles to differentiate his performance as Ben from Ryan in The Office and doesn’t have the range to his all of the necessary notes needed for this character.
Vengeance is a funny and entertaining mystery tale that has a lot of ideas on its mind, but it maybe doesn’t reach the heights that it sets out for. But it is still well worth your time and will likely leave you craving Whataburger “because it’s right there!”
Bodies Bodies Bodies
A group of former childhood friends reunite at the mansion of one of the group member’s parents for a hurricane party to see out the big storm sweeping through the area. But when one of the friends turns up dead, the group quickly turns on each other with distrust and simmering tensions from their past.
Bodies Bodies Bodies plays out like the Generation Z answer to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, with the majority of the characters being picked off one by one through various circumstances. The cast are all good in their parts, playing obnoxious and privileged young people incredibly believably; even Pete Davidson (David) gives a solid performance as the party host, and it is hard to take your eyes off of Rachel Sennott (Alice) when she is on screen.
The film builds to some moments of nail-biting tension as bodies start hitting the floor and the characters get at each other’s throats. Unfortunately, however, the ending moments undo a lot of the good work that came before and left me wondering what the point was in the events that had just taken place. Overall, the film left me feeling rather cold despite the strong performances and good tension building sequences.