“Bullet Train” is your average big-budget Hollywood action film with a dash of comedy thrown into the mix, but one that fails to produce any effect. It is indeed exciting to watch the commendable work of a skilled ensemble of actors, and perhaps the fast-paced action sequences as well, but the moments that try to make audiences connect with the absurdly larger-than-life characters do not work. It is through these scenes that “Bullet Train” loses any possible claim of being just a self-conscious, mindless action thriller and, overall, becomes an entertaining watch not worthy of remembering or revisiting.
‘Bullet Train’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
In a hospital ward somewhere in Tokyo, a distressed father looks over his ailing child, who has recently been in a horrible accident. Someone has thrown the young boy down from a rooftop, and the father, Yuichi, is ready to take revenge. Yuichi’s own father, who was once a member of the Yakuza, also wants the same, and Yuichi now prepares to board a bullet train on which his son’s attacker has asked him to meet.
An aging professional hitman, codenamed Ladybug, reluctantly arrives at a Tokyo station to board the same bullet train. His handler has given him a mission to steal a certain briefcase from the train on very short notice after the other assassin, Carver, has called in sick. Ladybug has very recently completed therapy and anger-management courses and therefore wants to keep the mission as non-violent as possible. However, he also has a history of terrible luck, with almost all of his previous missions having gone awfully wrong as he has a habit of unintentionally killing people. He refuses to take the assigned gun to the bullet train, which is scheduled to run from Tokyo to Kyoto, and his ticket is then picked up from his pocket by Yuichi, who makes his way onto the train with it. Ladybug too, manages to get on and is ordered by the attendant to get down at the next station. He soon spots the two assassin brothers holding on to the silver-colored briefcase he needs to steal and also manages to get hold of it rather easily. However, what he is unaware of is that the bullet train happens to be filled with a number of other professional assassins, all intending to take revenge on each other.
Who Are The Assassins, And Why Have They All Gathered On The Train?
“Bullet Train” essentially portrays an array of professional hitmen as colorful characters who add depth to its otherwise basic plot. It is through these characters, and their own backstories, that the film attempts to present itself as a quirky and unusual action thriller. But “Bullet Train” is still not able to break the mold and presents a narrative that seems repetitive and also unconvincing. After meeting with Ladybug and Yuichi, we are introduced to the brother-duo of Lemon and Tangerine, who are really not as harmless as their names are. Most possibly English, judging by their accent, the two have a record of killing innumerable men on their previous missions, the most notorious being a very recent one in Bolivia, when they slaughtered seventeen men in a span of a few minutes. This notoriety from the Bolivia job had now landed them this new mission—to get aboard the bullet train and safely deliver a silver-colored briefcase and a certain man to a dangerous Yakuza boss known as the White Death. While they secure both the mission items and get on the train, it is also revealed that the man they are delivering happens to be White Death’s own Son, who has himself been involved in criminal activities against his father’s will. Also aboard the train is a young woman dressed up as a British schoolgirl but who is actually another notorious assassin called the Prince. It was the Prince who had attacked Yuichi’s son, as she very openly revealed when they met on the train, for she knew this was the only way to make Yuichi board the bullet train. Yuichi, who is thirsty for revenge, obviously wants to attack the Prince but is very quickly outsmarted by her. She now reveals her real reason for having brought Yuichi onboard—she too knows about the briefcase being taken to Kyoto for the White Death, and she wants to kill this Yakuza boss. Knowing that Yuichi was someone close to the boss as he worked for him, Prince plans for Yuichi to kill him instead of her having to play any direct role. Prince also planned for her own safety by placing a killer in Yuichi’s son’s hospital ward, ordering him to kill the boy if he did not hear from her at certain intervals of time.
After stealing the briefcase, Ladybug attempts to get off the train at the next station, but owing to his bad luck with such missions, another assassin boards the train and intervenes. This new man, known as the Wolf, was a hardened criminal in Mexico but had lost his newlywed wife and his boss at his wedding ceremony, where everyone other than the Wolf had been poisoned and instantly killed. The Wolf had luckily escaped a similar fate and had then decided to avenge his loss by killing the man he believed to have done the poisoning—Ladybug. On the bullet train, the two men have a fierce fight in which the Wolf is killed, again by sheer coincidence as the Ladybug didn’t intend to do so. Even though Ladybug was present at the wedding ceremony on that fateful day, and he was also, incidentally, the cocktail server, he denied having any role in the deaths and was himself rather shocked when it happened. At present, he hides the briefcase in what he believes to be a safe spot and tries to work out an escape from the train, but the package is soon found by Prince. She now further reveals her plan to Yuichi—her intention is to kill the White Death with his very briefcase. She happens to have information that the briefcase has millions of dollars that the Yakuza boss was expecting and would, therefore, certainly open it as soon as he gets it, and Prince now places a bomb inside the package, which would explode the minute it is opened. However, to be on the safe side, she also carries a handgun triggered with an explosive (which would blast the moment it was fired), and she now makes Yuichi carry it. Her entire plan is to make Yuichi carry the briefcase to White Death, who would possibly have some of his men open it up and would, therefore, not die from the explosion. The White Death would be immensely enraged that his trusted henchman Yuichi had tried to kill him and would then take revenge by trying to kill Yuichi with the henchman’s own handgun, which would surely kill the Yakuza boss.
Meanwhile, Lemon and Tangerine get busy looking for the missing briefcase, and while they are away, the Son (White Death’s Son, whom they were meant to safely protect) gets killed by poisoning in the exact same manner as the Wolf’s family. All this, as Ladybug learns after some time, had been the doing of another professional killer called the Hornet, who used a unique method to kill her targets. Making use of boomslang snakes, which happen to produce a deadly venom, the Hornet injects her victims with the poison, which immediately makes them bleed through their eyes and mouth and fall dead within moments. After having killed the Son, she now has a face-off with Ladybug, in which both of them are injected with the poison. However, Ladybug gets hold of the antidote in time and kills the Hornet in the process. Realizing that the man they were meant to protect is now dead, Lemon and Tangerine decide to make him pose as alive while they still look for the missing briefcase. While Tangerine pursues Ladybug, Lemon goes through the train and comes across Prince and Yuichi. Through his obsessive habit of reading every human being in terms of Thomas the Tank Engine characters, Lemon deduces that Prince is actually evil, for she resembles Diesel (the meanest engine in the children’s show). However, before he can stop her, Lemon falls unconscious after having drunk water from a bottle that Ladybug had earlier laced with sedatives. Prince stows his unconscious body in a corner, and when Tangerine finds him, he believes his brother to have died and immediately goes after Prince for revenge. As he is about to kill her, Ladybug intervenes and falls for Prince’s innocent appearance. Believing her to be a victim of Tangerine, he kills the hitman instead and protects Prince. As the bullet train, now empty of all passengers other than Ladybug, Prince, Yuichi, and the unconscious Lemon, rushes towards Kyoto, the stage for an epic climax is set as news reaches them of the White Death himself arriving at Kyoto station to meet them.
Who Was The White Death? How Was All Of This His Plan?
Sometime before Kyoto, a new member joins our characters aboard the bullet train, and he is Yuichi’s father. The aged man, known as the Elder, now reveals the White Death’s identity and his backstory. Many years ago, a tough man named Minegishi headed the Yakuza gang, and the Elder had been a loyal protector and close aide of the boss. During this time, a man from Russia with ties to the KGB had come into Japan and joined the Yakuza and had quickly become close to the boss. However, this man, known as the White Death since then, had betrayed Minegishi and killed him to take over the Yakuza gang. In order to ensure that nobody else stood in his way, White Death had also murdered the Elder’s wife. The Elder had no chance but to protect his only son and go away in hiding, and for all these years, he reveals, he has been looking for a chance to take revenge against the White Death.
As the characters on the train make a pact among themselves to face the White Death together, the bullet train finally comes to a stop at the Kyoto station, and the main antagonist makes his first appearance. He now reveals to Ladybug how he had planned the entire train journey and himself hired most of the hitmen, for he is a staunch believer in fate and also in taking control of one’s own life. Some days prior to the day of the bullet train journey, White Death had lost his beloved wife in a road accident in which her car had been rammed into by another car that got away. However, White Death himself was supposed to have been in that car but had instead had to go away on some important, urgent business. This urgent business happened to have arisen due to the fact that two professional hitmen, Lemon and Tangerine, had killed all his men in Bolivia which had in turn halted his illegal businesses. On that fateful night, White Death’s wife had received a call from their wasteful Son, who had gotten into trouble due to his actions again, and White Death had asked her not to go help him. However, the woman could not turn down her motherly instincts and wanted to bail their Son out one last time, but it turned out that the Son had worked together with whoever had put the hit on White Death. After the wife had been rushed to the hospital, only a specialist doctor could have saved her, but right before the operation, the doctor had been poisoned and killed by the Hornet. In an elaborate revenge plan, the White Death had hired Lemon and Tangerine to bring his Son to him and also the silver-colored briefcase and on the other side, had hired Hornet to kill his Son and collect her money from the same briefcase. Along with these two sides, the White Death also wanted his revenge against the man who had rammed the car into his wife’s car, the man who he perhaps believed to have been the mastermind behind his wife’s death—Carver. However, as fate had it, Carver had called in sick at the professional assassin agency, and he had been replaced by Ladybug. The White Death has no knowledge of this, though, and he is ready to kill Ladybug, believing him to be Carver.
What the White Death had not predicted, though, was the presence of Prince on the bullet train and her plans with Yuichi. As it turns out, Prince is actually the daughter of the White Death and she had been neglected by her father from a young age. The White Death had always sided with his Son since his childhood and had kept high expectations from him, but by the time he had realized how the Son had turned out, he had lost Prince’s trust and love as well. The daughter had now planned the elaborate assassination attempt on her own father and had therefore brought Yuichi, and inadvertently the Elder, onto the train and the scene. The Wolf had also not been part of White Death’s plan either, as this particular man had boarded the train only because he had received news that his wife’s killer was on it. While his informant must have meant the Hornet, he instead believed it to be Ladybug as he recognized him from his wedding day.
‘Bullet Train’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Ladybug?
As Prince had earlier predicted, the White Death gets two of his men to open the briefcase and therefore avoids the bomb that explodes immediately. A fight breaks out between the hitmen and Yakuza members, and at the same time, Lemon (who had earlier regained consciousness) takes control of the bullet train, driving it again. However, things go horribly wrong as he loses control, and they now rush to stop the train in time before it crashes into the bustling city. Lemon seems to sacrifice himself by saving Ladybug from the Yakuza members aboard the engine of the train before the train crashes into the city. The Elder had also managed to slice his katana through the White Death before the crash, but everyone seemed to have survived the ordeal. The White Death emerges from amidst the debris and now prepares to kill Ladybug, still believing him to be Carver. However, the only handgun that the Yakuza boss had on him was the one he had taken from his daughter, the same one that Prince had fitted with a bomb. The White Death pulls the trigger and is immediately killed by a short but intense blast in his face. Ladybug, Yuichi, and the Elder are about to walk away from the scene when Prince, who has also survived the crash, comes out of the debris and wants to become the new white death by killing the three men. However, she is hit by a small truck carrying tangerines, and Prince is dead too. Ladybug’s handler, Maria Beetle, now appears, and she accompanies Ladybug away, and “Bullet Train” rolls end credits.
Through its action-strewn narrative, “Bullet Train” tries to carry a theme of fate, karma, and retribution. Each and every character in the film is out for revenge, other than Ladybug, who is just caught up in the whole act of the others’ revenge plots. It also maintains a comic tone throughout, as the base of all worries for our protagonist is a mistaken identity. Ladybug’s situation is that he is mistaken to be the man he is substituting for, Carver. In a mid-credit scene, it is also revealed that Lemon got his own sweet revenge as well, as he was the one driving the truck carrying the tangerines in honor of his fallen brother, Tangerine.
“Bullet Train” is a 2022 Drama Action film directed by David Leitch.