"Bullet Train" moves plenty fast, but it's a thrill ride you can afford to miss

"Bullet Train" certainly moves at an appropriately brisk pace, with Brad Pitt heading a sprawling cast.

the breakneck action is offset by a smart-alecky tone that proves both uneven and occasionally too cute for its own good, along with a mashup of styles

That latter influence shouldn't be surprising, since director David Leitch oversaw the "Deadpool" sequel, in addition to toiling in the "John Wick" and "Fast & Furious" franchises.

The Tarantino echoes are also heightened by Pitt's presence, having shown off his playfully macho side in that director's films

The story, however -- which screenwriter Zak Olkewicz adapted from Japanese novel -- doesn't possess enough fuel to consistently sustain that tone.

Even extensive flashbacks to get the narrative out of its confined space can't add enough intrigue to the machinations of these strangers on a train.

Joining the story in progress, Pitt's bad-luck hitman (codenamed Ladybug) boards a bullet train in Japan, with orders to acquire a briefcase full of cash.

Alas, he's not the only skilled assassin on board, with each pursuing different marching orders

If Pitt's world-weary character just wants to complete the assignment and disembark, others harbor more personal motives.

The various factions range from a mysterious young woman (Joey King) to a squabbling pair of operatives referred to as "twins" (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry) to a revenge-minded killer played by Benito A.

Martínez Ocasio, a.k.a. Bad Bunny.

That barely scratches the surface of the cast, including cameos clearly intended to provide little rewards to the audience

The tradeoff, though, is that some more recognizable faces appear so briefly as to barely register.