David Leitch has done this cartoonishly bloody and dripping with sarcasm business before with John Wick and Deadpool 2. In Bullet Train, having Brad Pitt loaded for the quipping is a plus. The trip is rockiest in the beginning leg, but picks up steam for quite some time. In the later stages, you may be asking why we aren’t there yet with the climax.
Pitt’s assassin who goes by Ladybug boards the title mode of transportation with simple instructions to boost a briefcase. Hurtling at breakneck speed from Tokyo to Kyoto, he soon finds that many other types who share his profession are along for the ride. This includes “twins” Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). Their codenames may suggest Prince backup dancers, but they’re tasked with transporting the drug addled son (Logan Lerman) of a crime lord named White Death (Michael Shannon) back home. And they also want that briefcase.
Unlike Pulp Fiction where we are still collectively wondering what was in that case, we find out quickly here. Ladybug and his fruit monikered colleagues aren’t the only ones seeking it. There’s Prince (Joey King), who’s dressed not as a backup dancer but as a schoolgirl who fools many with her innocent appearance. Kimura (Andrew Koji) is a killer burdened with a young son in danger away from the tracks. There’s more – Zazie Beetz turns up as does Hiroyuki Sanada as Kimura’s elder (he’s called The Elder). Multiplatinum rapper Bad Bunny is The Wolf, who is avenging a family massacre that could have used cleanup from Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolfe in the aforementioned Pulp. There’s cameos I won’t spoil. I will say they add little other than fleeting seconds of unexpected recognition.
Bullet Train gleefully revels in its violence. It kind of feels like a throwback to 90s excess that Tarantino’s landmark sophomore feature helped inspire. That’s not always a bad thing as the slicing and dicing is done with the visual flair we expect from Leitch. The screenplay from Zak Olkewicz is one of those where nearly every character is eventually connected. I found myself straining to care about those connections. It takes a few minutes before Train gets up to speed. Yet Pitt’s considerable charisma and his support staff (particularly Henry and Taylor-Johnson) help alleviate a lot of those narrative bumps. So was the ride worth it? That’s debatable though I’d say there’s worse fates than taking it.
OK, no one’s saying that David Leitch’s Bullet Train was stationing itself for a Best Picture nomination. As for down the line tech nods, it’s at least worth discussing. The action comedy from the John Wick and Deadpool 2 maker stars Brad Pitt and is out Friday.
The review embargo has lifted and Bullet is currently at a middling 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. I would say the only races where nods seemed feasible were Sound and Visual Effects and I don’t envision either occurring. If the Academy were to ever put in a category for Best Stunt Work (which isn’t a bad idea), the critical reaction indicates this might be in the mix. Absent that, don’t look for this Train anywhere near an awards show.
Leading man Pitt could, however, still find himself in the 2022 mix for Supporting Actor (we think it’s supporting) with Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Sony Pictures is hoping moviegoers catch the Bullet Train when it debuts August 5th. The action comedy comes from John Wick maker David Leitch with Brad Pitt headlining as an assassin. The supporting cast includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Logan Lerman, Bad Bunny, and Pitt’s recent The Lost City costar Sandra Bullock (in a role first slated for Lady Gaga).
The Japan set stunt fest is hoping to turn out an adult audience ready for original programming in a summer filled mostly with plenty of sequels and superheroes.
Since starting a franchise with Wick in 2014, Leitch followed up with Atomic Blonde. It was a box office disappointment that debuted with just over $18 million. Train should have no trouble getting past that number. However, it won’t reach the earnings of his last two pictures which were built-in franchise entries: Deadpool 2 and Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw.
Nope was able to reach mid 40s and it had the advantage of Jordan Peele’s brand. This will rely mostly on Pitt’s star power. I’m curious to see how word-of-mouth is in the coming days and that could increase or decrease my projection. My hunch is that mid 2os is the floor and low 40s could be the ceiling. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes toward the lower end of that spectrum, and I’ll say high 20s to low 30s is where this lands.
Bullet Train opening weekend prediction: $29.7 million
Blogger’s Note (08/03/18): I am revising my estimate down from $12.1 million to $9.1 million
No matter how it performs next weekend, SlenderMan should certainly achieve the biggest horror opening of all time for a movie based on an Internet meme. The supernatural tale comes from director Sylvain White with a cast including Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso, Talitha Bateman, and Javier Botet.
Based on the frightening meme that hit our small screens nearly a decade ago, this Screen Gems release was originally scheduled for release in May before the August pushback. Horror flicks can always exceed expectations, but I’m skeptical here. Shark tale TheMeg could provide serious competition for eyeballs. Furthermore, the marketing campaign for this seems a tad subdued.
I’ll project SlenderMan struggles to reach the teens for its start.
SlenderMan opening weekend prediction: $9.1 million
Low-budget horror pic Wish Upon hopes to scare up some box office dollars when it comes out next weekend. The reported $12 million production focuses on a mysterious music box that grants wishes to terrifying results. Annabelle director John R. Leonetti is behind the camera with a cast that features Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee, and Sherilyn Fenn.
The marketing campaign for this has seemed a little under the radar. Flicks of this genre can certainly exceed expectations, but I’m not expecting much here. We have already seen one example of a horror entry underwhelming this summer with It Comes at Night and it garnered very favorable reviews. There’s also significant competition in the form of War for the Planet of the Apes being in its opening weekend and Spider-Man: Homecoming being in its second.
I’ll predict Wish Upon is granted a debut just under half its meager budget.
Wish Upon opening weekend prediction: $5.9 million
For my War for the Planet of the Apes prediction, click here:
Call it Grumpy Old Thieves as Going in Style debuts at the box office next weekend. The pic is actually a remake of a 1979 caper comedy with George Burns and Art Carney about some old men cheated out of their pensions who exact the revenge. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin are the headliners with Zach Braff directing. Costars include Joey King, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, Kenan Thompson, and Matt Dillon. Theodore Melfi, who recently directed Hidden Figures, is the screenwriter.
Style could work reasonably well as a pleasant diversion for older moviegoers. The box office has been dominated by family fare as of late and comedies have been in rather short supply (CHiPs didn’t exactly set the multiplex on fire).
There’s a possibility that this could put up similar numbers to Last Vegas, which premiered to $16 million. That’s on the higher end of expectations. I believe a more likely scenario is $10-$13 million with the hope from Warner Bros that word of mouth is solid and it does well in subsequent weekends.
Going in Style opening weekend prediction: $11.5 million
For my Smurfs: The Lost Village prediction, click here: