Ladybug’s other killers are a bomb squad of homicidal oddballs. Joey King is “The Prince,” who poses as an innocent schoolgirl horrified by the cruelty of men, but immediately reveals himself as a wise and ruthless engine of destruction. Bryan Tyree Henry and Aaron-Taylor Johnson (who is groomed to look like the evil drunk Begbie from the original”Train spotting“) are brothers who have gone from mission to mission amassing a body count apparently in the triple digits, and now find themselves on the train protecting the briefcase and escorting the depressed twenty-something prodigal son (Logan Lerman) of a fearsome crime boss known as The White Death. The White Death is a Russian who took over a Yakuza family. His face doesn’t appear until the end of the story (it’s more fun for audiences to resist Googling who plays him because his casting is one of the best surprises of the whole thing). Hiroyuki Sanada is “The Elder”, a graying but still deadly assassin associated with the White Death, and Andrew Koji is “The father“—The elder’s son, apparently; they’re on the train because someone pushed the elder’s grandson off the roof of a department store and put him in a coma, and they think the person responsible is on the train along with all the other agents of destruction.
The plot seems goal-based at first, and it revolves around the comatose grandson and the metal briefcase. But as the script adds new fighters to the mix and establishes that they’re all somehow connected to the White Death, the film turns into a semi-necessary but sincere statement about fate, luck and karma – and Ladybug’s constant (and often humorous annoying) comments on these subjects, expressed in discussions through a handler (Sandra Bullock’s Maria Beetle, heard through the earpiece), begin to feel like an instruction manual for talking about what the film is “actually” about.
Characters get the kind of font-on-screen-followed-by-flashback-montage introductions that genre fans will recognize from directors such as Quentin Tarantino (“Kill Bill” seems to be a primary influence) and Guy Ritchie (which pioneered a certain brand of “boy action” where verbal insults become the equivalent of small fists and knives deployed against enemies). The fighters go at each other with guns, knives, fists and whatever available item they can get their hands on (the aforementioned briefcase, central to the plot, gets a good workout as both a defensive weapon and a club). They banter as they fight, and sometimes when one of them dies, the tone will shift to a greedy dirge, often affecting due to the skill of the cast, but it doesn’t inspire deep emotion because the rest of the film is so smooth and light.