I’m sorry but I don’t do summer movies as a rule. Smartly strategized, semi-realistic action and thrills are great (especially if they adhere to the forbidden laws of basic physics, which were more or less banned from filmmaking circles 20 years ago), but later with “turn off your brain and submit to the crap”, which is what Bullet Train is about.

Don’t get me wrong — I adore expertly rendered escapism. Being goosed and transported out of my own miserable head and taken to someplace fresh or surprising or hilarious or super-exciting is what movies have occasionally done for decades, and are certainly still capable of doing, and I mean going all the way back to the absolute gymnastic brilliance of Buster Keaton and his dazzling command of action choreography.

Alas, Bullet Train is not a Hollywood Elsewhere type of action flick. Because director David Leitch, an ex-stuntman who allegedly co-helmed the original John Wick (’14) and then actually directed Atomic Blonde (’17) and Deadpool 2 (’18), hasn’t the slightest interest in delighting people like me, and he might even be the kind of guy who would spit on the sidewalk when Keaton’s name is mentioned.

Okay, he might be a Keaton fan but he certainly doesn’t get him.

I vaguely respect (sort of) the fact that Leitch is basically giving people like me the finger and loving it. I vaguely respect (in a perverse roundabout way) that Leitch is fiercely opposed to realistic action chops and focused on fusing martial arts, manga and dry humor in a kind of bullshit Guy Ritchie wacky cartoony vein.

For all I know Bullet Train, which is looking to excite those tens of millions of action fans who also despise the idea of realistic action (you know, the kind with roots in that tedious realm that exists right outside the theatre doors or when you take off your headphones and turn off your Playstation games), and if it winds up making money, great.

Because that’s who and what Leitch is — a man of impudence and conviction and hunger who’s out to make money. And Sony loves him for that. And Brad Pitt, who was allegedly paid $30 million to star in this thing, is almost certainly swooning with affection

I’m making myself clear, I presume. I’m not saying Bullet Train is a bad, empty, cynical, unfunny, idiotic, overwrought, soul-polluting film (although it is). I’m saying I’m not in this. Bullet Train wasn’t made for people like me. It was made in order to sell tickets to people with a jaded (corrupted?) sense of taste in this stuff, but the secondary motive (and Leitch will be the last one to deny this) was to make people like me feel poisoned and bored and drained while watching it.

That’s how I felt last night, all right. But it doesn’t matter because action movie fans with standards don’t matter. The entire corporate movie-making, escapist-driven culture of 2022 is brushing away the lint of my opinions as we speak. Go away, you grumpy-ass fuck.

For me, the funniest thing to come out of Bullet Train so far is a line from Peter Debruge‘s Variety review: “There’s something callous about how casually Leitch takes human life.” Facetious Steve Martin remark from Planes, Trains & Automobiles — “Do ya think so?”

Yes, Debruge does think that something callous this way comes when we (you, me, your kids, your parents, your coworkers, your enemies, bus drivers, students, terminally-ill cancer patients) sit down to watch Bullet Train. Just a teeny weeny bit callous. As in “wait, am I getting a slight vibe of callousness from this film, or is it me?”

Maybe it is me. Maybe I’m a callous columnist and Bullet Train is a harmless provider of dazzling, good-humored, twinkle-eyed distraction.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Tangerine, a British assassin who’s professionally partnered with Brian Tyree Henry‘s Lemon, a chubby idiot whose modified Afro hair has blonde tips. For what it’s worth I really liked Taylor-Johnson’s Don Logan accent. He’s not as funny as Ben Kingsley but he made feel a bit of that old Sexy Beast elation. Taylor-Johnson is better than Pitt in this thing…honestly.

The film takes place aboard a bullet train (Shinkansen) travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto. The Tokyo departure begins sometime in the (late?) evening, and the big finale (you know what happens) comes at daybreak. Except the real-life bullet train makes the Tokyo-Kyoto journey in about two hours, or maybe a bit longer depending on how many stops. So even if the train leaves Tokyo at midnight, how could it arrive in Kyoto as the sun is coming up? How could this happen even with a 2 am departure?

Go see Bullet Train and have a blast. Forget what I’ve said here and just see it…turn your brain off and just submit to the damn thing. Tom Rothman will love you for it. Some people were laughing here and there during last night’s screening, and maybe you will too. Pay no attention to sourpusses like myself. I am like a crust of bread left over from a half-eaten chicken salad sandwich that’s sitting on a crumb-filled plate in a truck-stop diner somewhere in Indiana. Nobody cares about that crust, but they do care about the cinematic visions of David Leitch!