You’d probably be hard pressed to find a movie with a more suitable title than Bullet Train. As all the advertising you need for the story is right there in the name – a group of passengers get together for a violent ride on a fast-moving vehicle, while the movie’s pacing and storytelling appropriately moves at blistering speeds. But to get more specific, the story follows a hit man named Ladybug (Brad Pitt), tasked with retrieving a briefcase full of money on a Japanese train. These stories always involve a briefcase full of money, Ladybug correctly asserts. But his simple mission is complicated by an unfortunate fact – the money is a ransom payment connected to a mysterious figure that goes by “The White Death.” It soon becomes clear that everyone and their mother is on this train, each possessing some sort of connection (ranging from tangential to coincidental) to The White Death, creating their own incentives to retrieve the briefcase for themselves.

If that at all sounds complicated, don’t worry: Bullet Train gets a lot more complicated and convoluted. To recite the explicit details of the plot would be a pointless task without flagrantly diving into spoiler territory. Director David Leitch and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz have crafted an experience that heavily borrows from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, utilizing quirky characterizations and out-of-order storytelling to paint a colorful canvas that feels like a homage to every irreverent/bloody yarn about a group of assassins that you’ve seen in the last 30 years. On the one hand, that means Bullet Train is never boring as it loudly and garnishly stomps to the next story thread. But that also means that not every big moment lands, as it is often immediately overshadowed by the next big joke, violent death scene, callback, running gag, cameo, flashback, backstory, and everything in between that the writers can throw at the wall to stimulate your senses. Your mileage will vary on just how engaging the break-neck pace proves to be.

But despite the showy directorial flourishes, this is a movie about movie stars, of which Bullet Train is chock full of. However, I’ll only mention those who have already appeared in the trailer. Obviously, it’s Brad Pitt who drives the front car, portraying Ladybug as an emotionally turbulent oddball, requiring therapy to contend with all of the death his presence evokes. However, what Leitch is going for with this character doesn’t wholly work on a thematic level (more on that later).

Much of the movie’s heart comes from a couple of assassins, named Tangerine and Lemon (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry), who vacillate between friend and foe towards our protagonist. They’re also are falsely believed to be twins by those who only hear of their reputation. But the distinction isn’t far off on a personal level – they’re kindred spirits whose eccentricities compliment one another, even as they annoy each other. Their love for one another is only exceeded by Lemon’s affinity for Thomas the Tank Engine, a running joke the movie absolutely refuses to shut the hell up about.

The film’s intricate plot is decorated with the likes of a deceitful enigma (Joey King), who often appears to be one step ahead of the guys with motives that are unclear. There’s also a whole ass side plot involving Bad Bunny, which appears to be in its own movie – or possibly a Corona ad. It’s entertaining in the moment, but doesn’t really add anything to the central conflict other than to create a showcase for a recognizable pop star. Nonetheless, I almost wanted his section of the film to be even more ridiculous; go fill Telenovela with the comedy and self-serious tone.

These disparate aspects of the film, involving so many celebrities and story threads, feel as if they distract from the movie’s core narrative. What Bullet Train, at times, aspires to be is a revenge tale. The inciting incident is a father (Andrew Koji) taking up arms to avenge his son, who is near death after a brutal fall from a rooftop. However, the clumsy excuse used to justify the domino affect this has on the father signals just how needlessly complicated the chess pieces are here. I’ve never heard of a story where a character was called out by way of another character luring their child to a rooftop… to push them off the rooftop. You’re left thinking about how cumbersome that all sounds, rather than the emotions it is supposed to inspire.

But Bullet Train shortchanges a lot of its emotional weight, a predictable expense of such a stylistic film with hyper-speed storytelling and endless one-liners. Moreover, there’s sooo many characters, all of whom are connected to The White Death, that it needs its 2+ hour runtime just to somewhat get to to know them all. Yet, moments like a man trying to prove to his father that he can protect his family just don’t have room to breathe. Ladybug, on the other hand, gets a lot of screentime to discuss the black cloud of bad luck that hovers over him, as death seems to follow him wherever he goes regardless of intentions. At one point, a character instills in Ladybug that perhaps his purpose is to be a vessel for bad luck, so that others may live more fortunate lives. However, this makes little sense in the context of the movie because so much death, destruction, and heartbreak occurs completely independent of Ladybug’s presence; his belief system that he’s a bad luck charm appears simply as a quirk rather than a useful storytelling device.

The film, based on a novel by Kōtarō Isaka, seems less interested in its narrative constructs and more committed to the action and comedy. Ultimately, that’s where the movie succeeds and should be remembered for. This is ultimately a goofy movie, featuring larger than life celebrities, believable accents, not so believable accents, fun fight choreography, inventive camera work, and striking cinematography. I only wish there was a way to streamline the movie’s very busy plot, so as to not have to constantly cross-cut between timelines and perspectives. There have been better movies featuring greater use of the “this one guy brings all these eccentric characters to one location” cliche.

Nonetheless, Bullet Train is fun and is a great way to pass the time. The cast is not only colorful, but everyone showed up to work and are having a blast; there’s not one player half-assing it on screen. And while it’s hardly the most efficient script, you have to appreciate the amount of work put into orchestrating these characters and story beats into a storyline that (almost) makes complete sense. It’s not perfect, but it’s the fast-paced ride we were promised when we bought the ticket.