Bullet Train casts Brad Pitt as a wannabe reformed hit man fending off a star line-up of assassins

Brad Pitt might be one of our biggest and most enduring movie stars, but 30-odd years into his fame it’s just possible that he doesn’t get enough credit for the detail – and most importantly, sense of humor – that he brings to his roles.

From his star-making breakout in Thelma & Louise onwards, he’s made a pretty good fist of parodying the leading man ideal, using his dreamy looks as a slippery weapon – think back to his camp, whiny immortal in Interview with the Vampire; his harebrained personal trainer in Burn After Reading; or his leathery, laconic stunt guy in Once Upon A Time in… Hollywood. (Serious Brad is never nearly as good; he’s a character actor trapped in a leading man mold.)

Pitt described shooting the film to Collider: “It’s like shooting the old films, like a Hitchcock film with rear projection, but with the latest technology.”(Supplied: Sony)

At 58, Pitt is in the autumn of his blissful idiocy, and it’s a blessing – even if the movies aren’t always a match for his gifts. After stealing the fun but clunky The Lost City – in what amounted to an extended cameo, playing an absurdly macho CIA operative – he’s back to headline David Leitch’s new action movie Bullet Train, and he just might be the only thing keeping this frenetic but feeble ride on the tracks.

Looking perfectly ridiculous – and somehow impossibly cool – in a bucket hat and dopey glasses, Pitt plays an unlucky hit man codenamed Ladybug, who finds himself in Tokyo, strutting to a Japanese pop cover of Stayin’ Alive and bound for the bullet train at the behest of his unseen handler who doubles as his part-time therapist (Sandra Bullock, quite literally phoning it in).

A reformed thug of sorts, Ladybug has recently emerged from some kind of zen retreat that has him spouting goofy self-help mantras – “You put peace out in the world, you get peace back” – that play right into Pitt’s specialty of fusing the silly with the sublime.

Asian man with dark hair and stubble wears dark jacket and stands in doorway holding phone flanked by bright pink walls.
Despite being set in Japan, most of the film was shot in Culver City, California because of COVID travel restrictions.(Supplied: Sony)

On board the train, Ladybug has to snatch a suitcase full of cash from a pair of assassins straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie – Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, sporting a douchey mustache and doing his best Ray Winstone) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry, having fun with all the silly accents he must have absorbed on the last, London-set season of Atlanta).

There’s also a deranged assassin cosplaying as a schoolgirl (Joey King), a flamboyant hit man known as The Wolf (pop superstar Bad Bunny), and the shadowy, shapeshifting killer Hornet (Zazie Beetz).

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