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Bullet Train (film)

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Bullet Train is a 2022 American action comedy film directed by David Leitch from a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz, and produced by Antoine Fuqua, who initially conceived the film. It is based on the 2010 novel Maria Beetle (titled Bullet Train in its UK and US edition) by Kōtarō Isaka. The film stars Brad Pitt as a begrudging assassin who must battle fellow killers while riding a fictionalized version of the Tokaido Shinkansen. In addition to Pitt, the film stars an ensemble cast which also includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Bad Bunny, and Sandra Bullock.

Bullet Train
Bullet Train (poster).jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Leitch
Screenplay byZak Olkewicz
Based onMaria Beetle
by Kōtarō Isaka
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyJonathan Sela
Edited byElisabet Ronaldsdottir
Music byDominic Lewis
Production
companies
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
  • July 18, 2022 (2022-07-18) (Grand Rex)
  • August 5, 2022 (2022-08-05) (United States)
Running time
126 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$85.9–90 million[2][3]
Box office$230.3 million[2][4]

Principal photography began in Los Angeles in November 2020 and wrapped in March 2021. Bullet Train premiered in Paris on July 18, 2022, and was theatrically released in the United States on August 5, 2022, by Sony Pictures Releasing. The film has grossed over $230 million worldwide on a production budget of around $90 million, and received mixed reviews from critics.

Plot

In modern-day Tokyo, grieving father Yuichi Kimura seeks revenge after an unknown assailant pushes his son off a rooftop, and has told him to meet them on a bullet train later in the night. Meanwhile, former assassin "Ladybug", after recently graduating from therapy, is assigned to retrieve a briefcase from the same bullet train bound for Kyoto after the previous contact, Carver, calls in sick from a stomach flu. Ladybug is initially wary, as his recent string of bad luck during his jobs resulted in accidental deaths. Also on the train is a young woman codenamed the "Prince" who attacked Yuichi's son, Yuichi, and two assassin brothers called "Lemon" and "Tangerine" who are assigned to escort both the briefcase and the son of a Russian-born Yakuza boss known as the "White Death", who have been hired by the "White Death" due to their roles in a job at Bolivia. Ladybug steals the briefcase from Lemon and Tangerine but is attacked by another assassin called the "Wolf", who blames Ladybug for fatally poisoning his entire wedding party including his newlywed wife. After a brief fight, The Wolf's knife throw backfires and results in his death. Distraught, Ladybug stashes the briefcase away. Meanwhile, the Prince reveals to Yuichi that she pushed his son off the roof to lure him to the train as part of an elaborate plan to assassinate the White Death, as well as the fact that she has a henchman holding his son hostage in the hospital, with orders to kill him should anything happen to her. While Lemon and Tangerine search for the missing briefcase, the White Death's son is murdered in the same way as the Wolf's wedding guests.

Ladybug offers the briefcase to Lemon in return for getting off the train. Lemon suspects that Ladybug killed the White Death's son, leading to a fight in which Lemon is knocked unconscious. The Prince and Yuichi find the briefcase and booby-trap it with explosives to kill the White Death as well as a rigged gun as a second precaution. Ladybug encounters Tangerine and kicks him off the train, but Tangerine manages to climb back aboard. A suspicious Lemon shoots and injures Yuichi, but collapses after drinking from a water bottle Ladybug had earlier spiked with a sleeping drug. The Prince shoots Lemon and stashes him and Yuichi in a bathroom. Ladybug encounters yet another assassin - the "Hornet", who poisoned the White Death's son and the Wolf's wedding party with boomslang venom. After a struggle during which they are both exposed to the venom, Ladybug steals her antivenom to save himself, leaving her to die. Tangerine runs into the Prince and realizes that she shot Lemon, but Ladybug attacks before he can shoot her, killing Tangerine with his gun. Believing the Prince to be innocent, Ladybug agrees to protect her.

Yuichi's father, the "Elder", boards the train and sees that the Prince is lying and informs her that Yuichi's son is safe (having appointed an undercover bodyguard for him who managed to kill The Prince's assassin). After she flees, the Elder tells Ladybug that he is seeking revenge against the White Death, who killed his wife while taking over his Yakuza clan. They discover that Yuichi and Lemon are still alive, and the four work together to face the White Death. At Kyoto, Ladybug gives the briefcase to the White Death. The Prince, revealed to be the White Death's estranged daughter, tries to goad him into shooting her with Yuichi's rigged gun, but she fails. The White Death explains that every assassin on the train, as well as his son, were responsible in some way for the death of his wife (except for the Wolf and Ladybug, who was filling in for another operative) and that he hired them all in the hopes they would kill each other. The White Death's henchmen open the booby-trapped briefcase, which explodes, knocking Ladybug back onto the train. The White Death and his remaining henchmen board and battle the assassins. Their fight causes the train to hurtle out of control and crash into downtown Kyoto. Emerging from the wreck, the White Death (who is fatally wounded by the Elder) tries to shoot Ladybug but is killed by the rigged gun. The Prince threatens Ladybug, Yuichi, and the Elder with a machine gun, but is suddenly struck and killed by a passing truck - later revealed to have been driven by Lemon, avenging Tangerine’s death in the process. Ladybug's handler Maria arrives to retrieve him as he celebrates finally getting off the bullet train.

Cast

Additionally, Zazie Beetz portrays The Hornet, an American assassin who specializes in poisons; Logan Lerman portrays The Son, the White Death's son; Masi Oka portrays the train conductor; and Karen Fukuhara portrays a train concession girl. Pasha D. Lychnikoff portrays Alexei Ilyin, while director David Leitch appears as Jeff Zufelt, the 17th person killed earlier by Lemon and Tangerine. Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds appear in uncredited cameo appearances as a train passenger and Carver, an assassin whose job is being filled in by Ladybug, respectively.[6]

Production

Bullet Train had been initially developed by Antoine Fuqua —who co-produced the film— through his Fuqua Films banner.[7] It was originally intended to be a serious action thriller in the vein of Die Hard (1988), but the project turned into a light-hearted action comedy during the development process.[8][9]

It was announced in June 2020 that Sony Pictures had hired David Leitch to direct the adaptation of the Kōtarō Isaka novel from a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz,[7] with Brad Pitt being cast in the film the following month.[10] Variety reported that Pitt was paid $20 million.[11] Joey King subsequently entered negotiations for a supporting role,[12] while in September, Andrew Koji was added,[13] with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry joining in October.[14][15] In November 2020, Zazie Beetz,[16] Masi Oka,[17] Michael Shannon,[18] Logan Lerman,[19] and Hiroyuki Sanada joined the cast,[20] with Leitch revealing in December that Karen Fukuhara had also joined, and that Jonathan Sela would serve as cinematographer.[21] That same month, Bad Bunny (credited as his real name, Benito A Martínez Ocasio) was also added to the cast,[22] and Sandra Bullock joined the following year in February to replace Lady Gaga, who had dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with House of Gucci (2021).[23]

Production for Bullet Train began in October 2020 in Los Angeles, during the COVID-19 pandemic.[24] Filming started on November 16, 2020,[25] and wrapped in March 2021.[26] The producers constructed 3 full train cars, and LED screens with video footage of the Japanese countryside were hung outside the windows of the train set to help immerse the actors.[27] Stunt coordinator Greg Rementer said Pitt performed 95 percent of his own stunts in the film.[28]

Music

The film features a number of original tracks. Most notably, the film contains Japanese-language covers of "Stayin' Alive" by Bee Gees and "Holding out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler. Composer Dominic Lewis noted that the film's soundtrack represent "all vibe and no technique".[29]

Bullet Train Original Motion Picture Score
Film score by
ReleasedAugust 5, 2022
GenreFilm score
LabelSony Music
    Score track listing
  1. The White Death
  2. All Aboard
  3. Prince
  4. A Modern Plague
  5. Royally f#*ked
  6. MacGyver
  7. Yuichi
  8. Toilet Talk
  9. Tang Fight
  10. Daddy Issues
  11. Fructose Overdose
  12. The Hornet Stings
  13. Bubbles
  14. You’re the Diesel
  15. Backpack
  16. Polythene Pam
  17. Tentomushi
  18. Kyoto Eki
  19. Dochka
  20. Mr. Death
  21. Anuvva Bruvva
  22. Make or Brake
  23. Not Carver
  24. Fate
Bullet Train Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedAugust 5, 2022
GenreFilm soundtrack
Pop/Rock
LabelSony Music, Arista Records
    Soundtrack track listing
  1. Stayin' AliveAvu-chan (Queen Bee)
  2. Power – Siiickbrain feat. Pussy Riot
  3. I'm Forever Blowing BubblesEngelbert Humperdinck
  4. La Despedida – Alejandro Sanz
  5. My Time to Shine – UPSAHL
  6. Kill Me Pretty – Tamio Okuda
  7. Couple of Fruits – Big Fella
  8. Tokiniha Hahano Naikonoyouni – Carmen Maki
  9. Sweet Thang – Shuggie Otis
  10. Five Hundred Miles – Song For Memories
  11. Holding Out for a Hero (Dance Version) – Miki Asakura
  12. SukiyakiKyu Sakamoto
  13. I Just Want to CelebrateRare Earth
  14. Momomon – Dominic Lewis

Release

Bullet Train was originally set to be released on April 8, 2022, before being delayed to July 15, 2022,[30] again to July 29,[31] and then to August 5.[32] It had its world premiere at the Grand Rex in Paris, France on July 18, 2022.[33]

The film is slated for release on Blu-Ray, 4K UHD and DVD on October 18, 2022 and the digital release date on September 27, 2022.[citation needed]

Reception

Box office

As of September 25, 2022, Bullet Train has grossed $99.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $131.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $230.3 million.[2][4]

In the United States and Canada, Bullet Train was released alongside Easter Sunday, and was projected to gross $26–30 million from 4,357 theaters in its opening weekend.[3][34] The film made $12.6 million on its first day, including $4.6 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $30 million, topping the box office.[35] The film made $13.4 million in its sophomore weekend, remaining in first.[36] The film made $8 million in its third weekend, falling to third.[37]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, 54% of 309 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 5.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Bullet Train's colorful cast and high-speed action are almost enough to keep things going after the story runs out of track."[38] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 61 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[39] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak gave the film an 82% overall positive score, with 63% saying they would definitely recommend it.[35]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 3.5 out of 4, calling it "wildly entertaining" and praised the performances, "the creative and blood-spattered action sequences" and most of all the writing.[40] Peter Debruge of Variety wrote, "Bullet Train feels like it comes from the same brain as Snatch, wearing its pop style on its sleeve — a Kill Bill-like mix of martial arts, manga and gabby hitman movie influences, minus the vision or wit that implies."[41]

Representation of race in casting

The casting of several non-Asian actors, including Brad Pitt and Joey King, prompted accusations of whitewashing as their characters were Japanese in Kōtarō Isaka's novel. David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League, criticized the casting, explaining that while American actors would have been appropriate if the setting was changed to the United States, the filmmakers used the novel's Japanese setting while keeping Japanese characters in the film's background, strengthening charges of whitewashing. Inoue also questioned the actors' allyship to the Asian community for knowingly accepting whitewashed roles, and further criticized the film for pushing the "belief that Asian actors in the leading roles cannot carry a blockbuster," despite the recent successes of Asian-led films such as Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Despite being cast in the film, King previously said, "I do not believe a white woman should play a character of color. Not me or any other white woman for that matter."[42] Eric Francisco of Inverse wrote, "Unless you saw the individual character posters, you’d be unlikely to think Bullet Train actually stars any Asian talent. Hollywood supposedly doesn’t cast Asian leads because they aren’t stars, but the truth is, they aren’t stars because Hollywood won’t cast Asian leads. How can audiences get excited about buying tickets to see Asian actors when their existence in a movie is barely acknowledged?"[43]

When asked about the casting, Isaka defended the film and described his characters as "ethnically malleable," maintaining that his original Japanese setting and context were irrelevant as they were "not real people, maybe they're not even Japanese."[44] Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group president Sanford Panitch highlighted Isaka's views to defend the casting, reassuring that the film would honor the novel's "Japanese soul" while giving the opportunity to cast big name stars and adapt it on a "global scale." Bullet Train screenwriter Zak Olkewicz argued that the decision to cast beyond Japanese or Asian actors proved “the strength of [Isaka]’s work" as it was a story that could "transcend race." Director David Leitch noted that discussions had taken place during pre-production to change the film's setting, but it was ultimately decided to keep Isaka's original location Tokyo due to its international appeal.[45] Jana Monji of AsAm News highlighted the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Asians in the film and responded to Letich's comment, "That sounds like White privilege providing an excuse for exclusion."[46] Francisco mentioned that the Japanese author and most audiences in Asia "enjoy their own domestic film industry and go to Hollywood for the spectacle of foreigners," noting the differences between Asians in Asia and Asian American issues.[47] Guy Aoki, founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, criticized Isaka's statement, "Aren’t ALL characters in a fictitious novel ‘not real people’?...What an embarrassing sellout. Guess he’s more interested in counting the money he’s getting for selling his work (and soul) to Hollywood and hoping for sequels." He also thought Leitch's comment was also an excuse for the "tired Hollywood practice of exploiting Asian source material, leaving out most of the Asians in it, and calling the casting of white, black and Latino actors a triumph for diversity." He continued, "Unfortunately, people in Asian countries are used to seeing movies with all-Asian casts, so when Asian-sourced properties get turned into big-budget motion pictures, they find it refreshing to see white, black and Latino stars in them, not caring that the Asian content or culture of the original has been all but abandoned. By contrast, Asian Americans, who are still hungry to be seen, heard and understood in their own country, perceive it as more whitewashing.”[48]

References

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  37. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 21, 2022). "'Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero' Opens To $20M+: How Crunchyroll Pulled Off A No. 1 Box Office Win Via Non-Traditional Means — Sunday AM Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 21, 2022.
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  40. ^ Richard Roeper (August 2, 2022). "Wildly entertaining 'Bullet Train' handles its plot turns with finesse". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on August 3, 2022. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
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  45. ^ White, Abbey (July 28, 2022). "'Bullet Train Director, Writer and 'Maria Beetle' Author Explain Choice to Cast Non-Japanese Actors: The Characters Are 'Not Real People'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 29, 2022. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
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