“Bullet Train”
Starring Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Sandra Bullock
Written by Zak Olkewicz
Based on “Bullet Train” by Kotaro Isaka
Directed by David Leitch
Produced by Kelly McCormick, David Leitch and Antoine Fuqua

“Bodies Bodies Bodies”
Starring Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson
Written by Sarah DeLappe
Story by Kristen Roupenian
Directed by Halina Reijn
Produced by David Hinojosa and Ali Herting

For many years now, Hollywood studio suits have viewed the dogged, dreary-weather, hot and humid days of August as a dumping ground for lackluster, low-expectation, average and below-average movies, figuring they can drop these movies into theaters for a week or two, get at least a few bucks back on their production costs, and then get back to worrying about the better-expectation, prestige autumn release schedule.

Thus, as we approach the first weekend of August, 2022, there’s no better example of August dumping ground Z-movies than the two utterly repulsively gawd-awfully bad pieces of schlock being forced onto an undeserving audience: the amateurish, unprofessional, overly-violent, stomach-churning flops “Bullet Train” and “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”. As simply put as possible: Do not spend your precious money and time on these two embarrassingly terrible movie mistakes.

In fact, for this summer weekend of August 5-7, 2022, if you’ve already seen the excellent “Where the Crawdads Sing”–the best movie released so far this year–and the equally-excellent “Elvis,” then do yourself and your friends and families a huge favor and just skip the movie theaters altogether. Go outside and enjoy something summery. Go to the beach. Go swimming. Play some tennis. Play some croquet. Throw a Frisbee, football or baseball. Go on a hike in a county, state or national park. Have a picnic, cookout, barbecue, deck party or backyard party. Go fishing. Go canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, tubing on a river. Go camping–real camping, in a tent deep in the woods, cooking meals over an open fire. Go to a baseball game. Go to a carnival or fair. But, for your own good, your own mental health, absolutely do not waste your money and do not go see “Bullet Train” or “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”

And that’s not being too mean, harsh or unprofessional. It’s just telling the truth–these two movies, symbolic and emblematic of much of what is wrong with the filmmaking industry in the increasingly-depressing filmic times in the troubled 2000s, are just simply so painfully bad, violent, idiotic and even, on some levels, flat-out stupid–yes, that’s right, stupid–the filmgoing public sometimes just needs to be told as directly and honestly as possible to avoid some movie dreck.

So you’re being warned here as directly and honestly–and professionally–as possible to avoid these movies.

The problems with both movies are numerous and all-encompassing. They lack any semblance of competence, ability, reason, coherence, maturity, common sense, creativity, civility, structure and filmic talent in the basic areas of production, direction, writing and acting. In other words, they’re both poorly produced, directed, written and acted. They’re not funny, suspenseful, mysterious, dramatic, thrilling, interesting or even entertaining. They’re just gruesome, dark, dreary, overly-violent, overly-depressing, horrid exercises in below-average, amateurish filmmaking.

It’s also not mean or unprofessional to wonder just how these films were green-lit–movie industry jargon for getting approved for production–and just why certain actors–who should know better–even signed on for these movies. Of course, bad movies, and bad decisions by producers, directors, writers and actors, is nothing new in film–we all know that–but, again, sometimes, you just have to step back and question–directly and honestly–just what in the world is going on with Hollywood at certain times.

The jarring, gross-out, disgusting and wholly over-done violence in “Bullet Train” and “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is just one easy place to start in dissecting the extensive problems with these movies. Extreme violence, stylized or not, is rarely an answer to anything in film or television.

For as long as film violence has existed, which is since the beginning of film and television, it’s had a troubled history. Violence is too often mis-used, over-used, poorly used and gratuitously used, only serving to bring down everything else around it, even in the best movies. Far too often in too many movies for too many years, violence has simply been a mistake in many movies. Too many writers, directors and producers have failed to understand that, in the end, less is more is the answer to the proper use of violence in storytelling. The same is true in theater, and in books and other every other art form. Violence is most effective when it’s suggested and implied through the imagination, rather than just literally displayed and sprayed all over the screen.

“Bullet” and “Bodies” are so bizarrely violent from start to finish, the violence just overtakes every other aspect of the movies. The violence is bloody, disgusting, unnerving and repulsive–all without making a single intelligent point, message, moral or stand about anything deep, clever or intelligent.

“Bullet Train” attempts to tell a story about a group of thieves, assassins, hit men, con men, gangsters, thugs and other assorted idiots who, through bizarre chance, all find themselves thrown together on a speeding train tearing through Japan. They all interconnect for various reasons, they all share various sordid, seedy backstories, and, it seems, in general, everyone wants to kill or maim or torture everyone else. If the filmmakers had any possible sense of style, control, subtlety, irony or humor, this could have been a funny, clever comedic parody of action-adventure, gangster, heist and suspense films. But the dumbed-down, unoriginal, even moronic script, story and dialogue are all so heavy-handed, over-done and, again, violent, the movie is never successful with its action, comedy, parody, fight scenes, action scenes or, really, anything else. It’s all so loud, clashing and violent, the movie becomes as blurry as a fast, passing train roaring down the tracks in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night.

It seems the filmmakers wholly failed to watch the dozens and dozens of previous quality films that were set on trains–all of which should have served as a filmic template, example and inspiration for this movie. Consider the original “Murder on the Orient Express.” “Silver Streak.” “The Palm Beach Story.” The original –and only the original–“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.” “Runaway Train.” “The Lady Vanishes.” And many more.

“Bullet Train” recalls absolutely none of these classic movies.

Besides wondering why “Bullet Train was allowed to leave the filmmaking station, it’s equally a mystery what on earth Brad Pitt is doing starring as the lead in this awful movie. Pitt seems to be wondering the same thing in the movie. He slums his way through the role, he looks and acts tired–but not in a comedic manner–and his ill-conceived attempts at comedy fail at every step and in every scene. Pitt is simply not a comic actor, on any level. The same applies to Sandra Bullock–what was she thinking, signing on to this mess?

And someone needs to sit down and have a long discussion with ham-handed director David Leitch, who is quickly becoming the new Michael Bay. And no one wants to, or should be, the new Michael Bay.

The equally-horrid “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is, alas, one of those Z-movies flops that’s so annoyingly, irritatingly, gratingly and obnoxiously bad, from start to finish, it’s depressing just having to talk about the movie. That sounds harsh, too–but it’s true.

Similarly to “Bullet,” in “Bodies,” a group of people with shared interconnectivity and shared backstories are thrown together, in this case, instead of a train, they’re all partying together in a mansion on a, of course, dark and stormy night. Soon, people start getting murdered, and everyone becomes increasingly frantic, manic, lunatic, psychotic and, well, murderous. The bodies hit the floor, the blood flows, and, well, that’s about it, in a nutshell.

Besides the gross, wrenching violence, “Bodies” destroys itself by presenting what is literally one of the most annoying, irritating, depressing, immature, childish, uncommunicative, cellphone-addicted group of dumb, clueless, idiotic and moronic people in a movie in, well, months–since too many modern movies seem to continually feature irritating, annoying, immature characters with zero likeable, redeeming or positive qualities. But, man, are these characters in “Bodies” just dumb–but not in a funny, ironic or satirical way. They’re annoyingly, stupidly dumb. They’re so dumb, viewers might succumb to their own inner insanity and start to root for each of these dumb people to be the next murder victim–within the realm of movie fantasy, of course!

But, again, the filmmakers fail with all attempts to make “Bodies” satirical, funny, comedic, suspenseful, terrifying, scary or even mysterious. The shaky, sickening hand-held camera movements–cliched already twenty years ago; the screeching, childish voices, actions and dialogue of the characters; the literally dumbed-down plot points; and lighting that is so dark it’s difficult to clearly follow the action at times, all contribute to one long, dark, depressing, dreary mess.

The movie is supposed to be a murder mystery, but “Bodies”is so under-done, it’s never suspenseful or mysterious. The most mundane episode of the most mundane television detective series has more genuine suspense and mystery than “Bodies.”

And the filmmakers seem to have completely, amazingly ignored the thousands and thousands of quality murder mysteries that have previously been released in film, on television, in the theater and in books. There’s thousands of examples, of course, but in just recent years, for a great murder mystery, watch Kenneth Branagh’s excellent “Death on the Nile,” from earlier in 2022; watch any episode of the consistently superb television series “Monk;” and watch the great, fun “Knives Out.”

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” recalls none of these prior murder mysteries.

So in these filmic dumping ground dogged days of August, moviegoers would be wise to let this blurry “Bullet Train” pass by in the night and to just not get aboard this ride to nowhere. And don’t let your body hit the movie theater floor to suffer the decayed stench of “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”

The sea, surf, sun and sand beckon all to get outside, find a place in the sun and enjoy the joys of summer.


Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld is a longtime journalist, actor and film critic in the Washington and Baltimore areas. He has participated in many local film events and projects in the region, and he has appeared as an actor, supporting actor and extra in more than 45 films projects, at all levels, during the past 20 years.