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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Predates "Speed" and Is The Much Better Drama...

6/10
Author: jmaruyama from Honolulu, HI
16 August 2004

`Bullet Train' (Orig. Title: Shinkansen Daibakuha) is a gripping thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Made in 1975, `Bullet Train' predates Jan De Bont's similar `Speed' by almost two decades and is the vastly superior drama. The wonderful Ken Takakura portrays the bomber with a grudge, while cult action star Shinichi `Sonny' Chiba portrays Shinkansen (Bullet Train) operator Aoki who must find the explosive device before his train explodes. Utsui Ken (who portrayed the serial hero Super Giant/Star Man) also puts in a great performance as Transit Chief Kuromochi who must not only deal with the demands of the bomber but must also deal with the political and public backlash and hysteria that ensues the crisis. While some of the SFX work does not really look all too convincing, the overall film is a joy to see. Ken Takakura's somber and tragic character of Okita is quite a contrast to Dennis Hopper's wacky and cartoonish villain in `Speed". While the film is not great, it certainly is worth a look. Blink and you could miss the cameo of Shihomi Etsuko as a transit telephone operator.

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Excellent plot and fast-paced.

10/10
Author: Nathaniel Hinckson from New York, New York
11 October 2001

This movie was special in having an extremely interesting plot and fast paced action. The cast is excellent with then major Japanese star Sony Chiba playing a minor role. The mastermind, played by Ken Takakura, is cool, calculating, and very human as opposed to the plain evil vilains typical in those days. The action is excellent and credible in a time when special effects were not computer-generated. I'm convinced that the plot for the movie "Speed" was lifted from this movie. It's worth seeing. I'm currently looking for a copy on VHS or DVD but to no avail. "Help!"

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Long, but well worth it

8/10
Author: matt-mccabebrown from United Kingdom
8 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was doing some sale shopping searching randomly through an online webs-tore, when i came across Bullet Train. I noticed that it starred Sonny Chiba, an actor who Quentin Tarantino has honoured with a great deal of praise. So I bought it. Thankfully, it was the full 152min R2 version from Optimum (I understand the previous edit was fairly poor, judging by other comments I have read). The picture and sound quality were superb. The the original dialogue sounded crisp throughout, and with the full 2:35 anamorphic widescreen print available, the DVD was a very enjoyable watch. Although Sonny Chiba gets top billing here, he has a glorified cameo appearance throughout, only once venturing away from his chair at about the 2hr 10min mark. This film belongs, and rightfully so to Ken Takakura. He plays the bomber Okita, a role which he plays with such precision and empathy that you want him to get away at the end of the movie. This being an action/thriller movie, we all know he won't. In an ending similar to Bullitt, the final chase takes place on/near an airport runway. The final shot of which is, albeit of a violent act, is beautiful in its execution. Some of the model work is a bit on the dodgy side, but it was made in 1975. As all of the characters are well rounded, we get a rare insight into the bombers gang, which I have never seen in the type of film. We find out how Okita first met he assailants in flashbacks when things start to go pear shaped. Better than Speed (which is still an excellent popcorn movie) but for different reasons. Well worth the time and effort to watch. Just make sure your get the original 152min Japanese language version. It makes all the difference.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A tense, riveting and exciting action/suspense thriller corker

9/10
Author: Woodyanders (Woodyanders@aol.com) from The Last New Jersey Drive-In on the Left
20 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shrewd criminal mastermind Tetsuo Okita (superbly played by Ken Takakura) plants a bomb on a high-speed Japanese Shinkansen bullet train that's wired to explode if the train goes under 80 kilometers per hour. Stalwart Captain Aoki (the always cool Sonny Chiba) has to keep the express hurtling along at a breakneck velocity and prevent the 1,500 passengers from succumbing to panic while the authorities led by no-nonsense Transit Chief Kuromochi (an excellent performance by Ken Utsui ) try to find and apprehend the wily and evasive Okita before he gets away. Director/co-screenwriter Junya Sato wrings plenty of nerve-jangling suspense from the riveting and inspired premise, maintains a constant snappy pace throughout, stages the action scenes with substantial rip-snorting brio, and elicits sound acting from a sturdy cast. Masahiko Iimura's crisp, gliding, glossy widescreen photography and Hachiro Aoyama's stirring, funky-groovin' score further enhance the overall sterling quality of this bang-up gripping and rousing picture. Similar to "Speed," it's a far superior film: tough, gritty and serious, with no silly humor or icky-cute sentiment to diminish the unsparing severity of the gut-wrenching tension. Only the poor dubbing detracts a tad from this otherwise on the money tense, potent and absorbing pip.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the TRAIN

7/10
Author: Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
1 July 2010

Now here's a brief little plot description I'm sure will sound familiar to most people! Terrorists plant a bomb somewhere on a crowded public transportation vehicle. The device activates itself once the vehicle reaches a certain speed and will explode if the vehicle lowers its speed beneath this mark. The authorities as well as the driver are aware of the danger, but a ransom needs to be paid before the terrorists gives the exact location of the bomb. Now where have I heard that before? Hey wait a minute, it's that movie "Speed" with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock! Well sure, 99% of the world will be able to guess that, but sadly only a miserable 1% (or even less) know that "Speed" is, in fact, some sort of remake of this modestly produced but hugely exhilarating Japanese 70's disaster flick. Here in this case, the public transportation vehicle is an elite high-speed express train instead of a bus, so there are even more possibilities to hide the explosives. There are two versions of "Bullet Train" available, albeit both of them are quite obscure, but they're a world of difference. The international version is barely 90 minutes long and pretty much cuts all the background and intrigues surrounding the act of terrorism. The Japanese version runs slightly over 150 minutes and is the complete opposite! In this extended version you get to know literally everything about the terrorists, including how they got acquainted and even what they prefer to have for lunch. I'm usually quite allergic to long (2+ hours) movies, but I read that the heavily cut version comes across as incoherent and clumsy, and also that it doesn't feature the social criticism and melodrama. This may very well be true, but the 150 minutes slightly exaggerates with illustrating background stories and dramatic subplots. At numerous times during the film, it even felts like the booby trapped train was merely an unimportant sub plot while the real movie revolved on the life story of main terrorist Tetsuo Okita. Still, it's a compelling and at times adrenalin-rushing adventure with a solid script and terrific performances. Ken Takakura excels as the embittered terrorist and martial arts legend Sonny Chiba is very impressive in the for him very unusual role of ordinary machinist. One thing about "Bullet Train" I will surely NEVER forget for as long as I live is how this movie features the single most worst case of bad luck ever! After he received the ransom, the terrorists reveals that he left a bag in a restaurant. In the bag there's a map with a detailed drawing of where exactly in the train the bomb is located. The authorities rush to the restaurant, but notice upon arrival that the place just burned to the ground due to a short circuit! What are the odds of that happening?

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

High drama aboard the Bullet Train

7/10
Author: wanderingstar from Toronto
9 February 2008

I picked up a six-pack of Sonny Chiba movies and this was one of them. Lucky for me it was the uncut, original Japanese language version!! The Bullet Train is a bit of a more complex drama than the much later "Speed" which was pretty much a straight action movie. There are key differences between the two. "Speed" uses an over-the-top villain type in Dennis Hopper, a man completely evil who we're not expected to sympathize or feel sorry for. "Bullet Train"'s villain is a more complex, serious, darker sort of character, and we come to understand and even sympathize a little with his reasons for ransoming the Bullet Train.

I found it a little long at 2 1/2 hours. But I liked that it was a more serious film than Speed, delving into the ransomer's motives and the consequences of his actions, not just for his victims but for his accomplices, the train company employees, and himself. And 1.5 hours in, I realized I had no idea how it was going to end.

If you enjoy Japanese or Asian cinema in general, this isn't one of the best films, but you will probably enjoy it as I did.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Excellent movie, worth watching

Author: ppeev3003 from Bulgaria
14 February 2006

This movie is very good. It allows you to feel as if you are riding on one of Japan's bullet trains. (In Bulgaria, we call them 'arrow trains'). The movie plot follows in a very logical sequence, as the viewer is lead through the events from planting of the bomb to the eventual happy end. The characters of the terrorist are well played, as the motivations for their actions are explained. And their very human emotions of strife and hesitation are shown as we gradually learn who they are and what they want. Conversely, the train authorities are portrayed as brave people, who are taking prompt actions to eliminate the bomb. All in all, it is a movie that is pleasant to watch and will immerse you in a somewhat different world. The music, at times, becomes very gentle and dreamy (I wonder who composed the music and whether a soundtrack CD can be obtained from somewhere?) Watch this movie, it will be a memorable one for you!

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Not quite up to Speed...

6/10
Author: TrevorAclea from London, England
29 August 2006

Pop quiz: there's a bomb on board and if you go under 50, it'll go off. What do you do? Well, if you're a Hollywood studio, you move the bomb from The Bullet Train and put it on an L.A. bus and hope that no-one reminds you that Japan did it first in 1975 with this Takakura Ken movie. More a typical 70s disaster movie than a thriller, with all the stock characters onboard – yes, including the hysterical businessman and obligatory pregnant woman - Takakura Ken broods magnificently as ever as the bad guy with a grudge and a supply of explosive devices while Sonny Chiba is almost lost in the crowd as the driver on the train trying to prevent the big bang (no, he doesn't hit anyone for once). Shame it's so dull.

There are a couple of mildly interesting plot twists and there's a surprising emphasis on the family of extortionists who are far more sympathetic than the clichéd and irritating passengers or the bungling cops, but there's no reason for it to stretch out to more than two-and-a-half hours. There's also a curious sense of constantly being outside the action, as if a passing spectator rather than a participant. One occasion where Hollywood definitely did it better.

Optimum's UK DVD is the uncut subtitled version in a decent 2.35:1 transfer.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Nice movie, but hard to find the video

7/10
Author: (suresh-g@usa.net) from USA
25 March 2001

I had seen this movie way long back in India when I was a Kid and enjoyed it. Now, I live and work in the USA. I would like to purchase this movie either in dvd, vcd or vhs format, but to my luck I am not able to find it's availability. If any one can help me on this I would really appreciate your efforts.

Suresh

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

It's Classic,but very exciting.

Author: moe_dqn from Kagawa, Japan
25 March 2004

I watch this movie in DVD. This movie was produced before I am born, I was very exciting this movie. Because this movie music is good. It cannot believe that it is the old movie. Ken Takakura who is performed to this movie is the actor whom I like most. Because He is the greatest actor in Japan. His performance is very groovy. I knew him with the "Black rain" Because as for the reason where I looked at this movie, he was performed.

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