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The Gray Man and Brad Pitt Train Fight

by Danny Duff about a month ago in pop culture / review / movie
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A very timely review of some current action movies.

I’m pretty sure I saw the trailer to Brad Pitt Train Fight aka Bullet Train every single time that I’ve been to the movies this year. And when I finally saw it last week I got there early and the pre-show had no less than 3 previews for Bullet Train, the movie I was about to watch, including the full trailer once again. So I don’t think I was into the movie as much as I wanted to be because I felt like the trailer, like most trailers, showed a bit too much. Which is why I usually don’t watch trailers, but this one was just unavoidable. I had fun, but I think I actually enjoyed the movie more on my second watch, that could also be because I had seen Netflix's The Gray Man in between.

The Gray Man is a movie that I think is just ok. It’s got some decent action, Chris Evans is clearly having fun playing the villain, and I think this sequence with the streetcar is pretty good. There's a reflection kill shot that's solid. When Ryan Gosling mistakenly uses all the bullets in the gun before he can break his handcuffs is a fun moment. And this moment where they have to wait for the streetcar to realign after turning before they can continue shooting is something I’ve wanted to see in an action movie for a while. I even wrote it into my Spider-Man script. But the movie still falls short in a lot of areas. It’s probably a bit too long. There’s some weird pacing stuff, like we don’t get any of the emotional-why we should care-character development until almost a half hour. And even then it’s a bit confusing. Is this a save the princess movie? Is it a Last of Us, little girl/grizzled dad story? Or is it just a straightforward Bourne Identity thriller? Like the movie sets up all these different assassins that are going after Gosling, but it never really pays off in an interesting way. Most of them just end up being military stormtrooper types. We do get one brown guy who is pretty cool, but that’s it. Remember in Bourne Identity, where they set up all these other assassins, and then they keep showing up to cause problems for Matt Damon, and also are going through similar character things, tying into the overall themes and arcs of the movie. Ultimately it’s just a better spy-thriller overall. Gray Man has some tonal inconsistency as well. The movie takes itself super seriously, but there’s still jokes and humour sprinkled throughout, and it doesn’t really mix well. The movie is super violent, but still PG-13 and virtually bloodless. Like, is this a mass-appeal action movie, or a serious dark thriller? Winter Soldier takes itself pretty seriously, but still has a healthy helping of Marvel humour, but they also never take away from the serious character moments. That movie just has a better script I guess. Which reminds me:

Tangent: Location Titles

A common spy-thriller troupe is to have location title cards, usually in the lower third, over your establishing shots. Sometimes accompanied by time, date, or other info. But does anyone actually read these? Maybe it’s just me, but I tune these out, and instead just pay attention to what characters we’re following. The name of the place we’re in never matters as much as what it looks like, or what the characters are doing. But I guess the Russos caught on to this, and so in Civil War, they’re like, "Fuck you! Big ass location titles! Try not reading that fucker!" And yeah, it’s hard to miss. And they’ve kept this trend for pretty much every movie I’ve seen them do since, Gray Man is no exception. So I’m trying to pay attention initially, because the Russos seem to think the name of the location is pretty important, but they jump around so often in this movie, plus an extended flashback in yet another location, that I think once again, it’s easier to just ignore where the characters are, and focus on what they are doing. Sorry Russos, you had a good run, but I’m going back to illiteracy.

Anyways, all this to say, Bullet Train is pretty good. Gray Man has a lot of action scenes with pseudo neon lighting that feel like they should have a pop song playing, one of them even does. (As if that automatically makes a fight scene better) I mean, that’s sort of the post-Wick action style that we’re in right now. And Gray Man obviously draws influence from that style, but doesn’t go all the way. Bullet Train on the other hand does it effortlessly. Sometimes it feels a little style over substance, as I find that director David Leitch has a tendency to lean towards. But the movie is consistently high energy, fun, and tonally consistent. Who would’ve guessed that one of the directors of John Wick would be better at doing a Wick-like style better than their emulators?

We get a bunch of actor cameos in this movie. For example Ryan Reynolds has a cameo, which is kinda fun since Brad Pitt had a cameo in Deadpool 2. Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum both were in The Lost City earlier this year, also with Brad Pitt. We’ve got Zazie Beets who is in Deadpool 2, and Atlanta along with Brian Tyree Henry. Logan Lerman gets equated to Percy the train from Thomas, which could be a reference to his role as Percy Jackson. Even David Leitch gets a cameo. And finally Aaron Taylor Johnson also fought a train in Age of Ultron. Does this movie exist just as an excuse for actors who seem to like working together to hang out? Maybe.

Long story short, Gray Man is kinda forgettable, but Brad Pitt Train Fight is a good time. Bullet Train may have a lot of characters, but all the characters are fun and interesting. The movie is a bit convoluted at times, but there's also a lot of great set up and payoff, and is consistently entertaining. It's a good time, and one of the only movies out right now that isn't part of a larger franchise. Check it out.

For more train fights, check out:

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About the author

Danny Duff

Danny Duff is a writer and filmmaker. He likes writing about movies, TV, and sometimes video games.

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