Review – Tickets! Tickets, Please! (“Bullet Train”)

Based on Kotaro Isaka’s novel, Maria Beetle, this movie takes the ultra-violence of Kill Bill or John Wick, the fighting style of Jason Bourne mixed with some Jackie Chan, and throws in a murder-mystery like Murder on the Orient Express along with LOL humor. Wow!

Set onboard a super-fast Japanese bullet train, Brad Pitt plays a disheveled American assassin named Ladybug. His boss, Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock), needs him to steal a special briefcase, but of course, there are others who’ll kill to get that McGuffin. . . I mean, briefcase as well! In a series of inter-locking stories on this train of killers and ruthless people, we meet the players who will factor in trying to kill Ladybug and/or get that briefcase. Ya got the British ‘twins’, Lemon & Tangerine (Brian Tyree Henry & Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who are assigned to bring the kidnapped son (Logan Lerman) back to White Death (Michael Shannon), the most feared crime boss in Japan.

Meanwhile, schoolgirl-dressed, but deadly The Prince (Joey King) has evil plans that involve a distraught father (Andrew Koji) and his assassin father, (Hiroyuki Sanada). Jumping aboard the train at one point is a lethal assassin from Mexico called The Wolf (Benito A. Martinez Ocasio, aka “Bad Bunny”). Oh, and to top it off, there’s another killer onboard called the Hornet (Zazie Beetz), who is using a very unique way of offing people. Just as Ladybug finds the briefcase, the fun (and all the fighting) begins. As the train is racing down the tracks, making its stops, Ladybug not only tries to get off at every stop, but is thwarted each and every time! As the night goes on, people are getting violently killed, sides are being drawn, the mystery of someone’s death is called into question, and Ladybug just wants to leave, find a place of Zen, and relax.

The third act showdown fight is cranked up to 11 and is beyond crazy with a shocking, zany, hilarious finale I did not see coming! Rarely have I been entertained more than with this super-fast-paced movie that has rapid-fire, Deadpool-like dialogue and loads of Family Guy-style cutaways/flashbacks that are very, very funny. I was laughing straight through the movie, even with the gratuitous amounts of blood splatter and body parts flying everywhere. This is one hysterical, blood-soaked movie and I loved every minute of it, thanks to the cracker-jack script of Zak Olkewicz; his first screenplay.

And the script is only half the fun. You have the dizzying direction of David Leitch, who is no stranger to shooting insane fight choreography in films. He not only co-directed John Wick, but he also directed the terrific Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and Fast ‘n’ Furious: Hobbs & Shaw. There are definitely some Guy Ritchie influences going on here, especially when there are any quick conversations between two people, with Leitch throwing in a LOL fourth-wall-breaking flashback scene. Pitt is just awesome here as the assassin facing an existential crisis while trying not to get killed. This could easily be a franchise for him. The ‘twins’ are my favorite (with Lemon having a Thomas the Tank Engine obsession) and any movie with the exceptional Sanada in it is worth watching.

Puerto Rican rapper & singer Bad Bunny is, for his short time on screen, outstanding. Michael Shannon always exudes nastiness and King is great as the demented Prince. There are some surprise pop-up cameos that I won’t give away, but they are so much fun and unexpected to see. I read that this was originally supposed to be a hard-core, R-rated, dark film like Die Hard. Well, it’s got lots of R-rated violence, that’s for sure, but it’s also got some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in a while.

**Now showing only in theaters

Hudson Hawk (1991)

This is why many actors shouldn’t write their own movies. Yes, some have great success, like Tina Fey, Woody Allen, and George Clooney, but there are others like Sly Stallone, Ben Stiller, and Bruce Willis who tried and failed.

Although the credits list Steven deSouza and Daniel Waters as screenwriters, Willis wrote quite a bit of the script, even changing the tempo, structure, tone, and lines as the movie went along, much to the dismay of director Michael Lehmann. Needless to say, Willis’ comedic version of Die Hard didn’t work at all. We start with newly released Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins, a master cat burglar & safe-cracker, who just wants to celebrate his first day of parole with a cappuccino. But, dang it, he is immediately blackmailed by various people, including his parole officer, into doing a few art heists with his partner, Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina (Danny Aiello). Their particular schtick? They steal while singing a song!

Meanwhile, super-weird and scenery-chewing Darwin & Minerva Mayflower (Richard E. Grant & Sandra Bernhard) want to (what else?) take over the world! How? By reconstructing La Macchina dell’Oro, a machine invented by Leonardo DaVinci that converts lead into gold. But, to do that, it requires an assembly of special crystals; ones that are hidden in a variety of Leonardo’s other artworks. Assigned to foil their dastardly deed is Sister Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell), a Vatican operative working with the CIA who’ll be assisting Hawk. Naturally, the looney-tunes Mayflowers want Hawk to steal all the crystals and threaten him if he doesn’t.

Upping the ante is dirty CIA head George Kaplan (James Coburn) and his special ‘candy bar’ agents: Snickers (Don Harvey), Kit Kat (David Caruso. . .yes, that David Caruso!), Almond Joy (Lorraine Toussaint), and Butterfinger (Andre Bryniarski). From there it’s a constant game of stealing an item, getting chased, getting caught, escaping, and then stealing another item, getting chased, getting caught, and escaping again. And all the while, Hawk is A) trying to drink a cappuccino without luck, B) hitting on Sister Anna without luck, and C) constantly wisecracking about everything and anything that’s going on. The ending is all sorts of wrong as the gold-making machine blows up, people are killed, and an absolutely horrible “bow-tie death resurrection” is tacked on at the end. Just the worst.

How bad was this movie? Willis has stated that he wished he never made it, Grant called it a “steaming pile”, and the critics mercilessly thrashed it. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 33%, it won three Golden Raspberries Awards (Worst Screenplay, Picture, and Director), and Willis vowed never to write another screenplay. . . which he never did. Odd, though, that it did make some money at the box office, so I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

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