“Bullet Train” is a movie about good luck, bad luck, and karma. Brad Pitt, a.k.a., “Ladybug,” is stuck on a bullet train with a half-dozen assassins from Tokyo to Kyoto in Japan. But he isn’t the star of this movie. In fact, the breakout star isn’t even human.
“Ladybug” returns to work after months of therapy for work-related deaths that he blames on his bad luck. He takes over a simple assignment from another assassin who had fallen ill. The plan was to board the bullet train in Tokyo, grab a briefcase with $10 million US in cash, and exit at the next station. Someone prevents him from leaving the bullet train during the one-minute stop at each station.
Ladybug’s main adversaries are “Lemon” (played by Brian Tyree Henry) and “Tangerine” (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Both are British assassins and twin brothers. Seriously. Their chemistry as brothers makes them more likeable than all the other assassins.
The other assassins include:
- The Father, whose young son got pushed off a building.
- The Prince, a British schoolgirl that everyone overlooks.
- The Wolf, who blames Ladybug for killing his newlywed wife.
- The Hornet, who uses boomslang snake venom to kill her victims.
Despite the action surrounding these characters, none of them were the breakout star of the movie.
Each character in the movie has a title card with their name in English and Japanese, and a short montage prior to the bullet train.
One non-human character also got a title card and montage: Fiji Water.
Not the generic water bottle tossed between Ladybug and Tangerine. The Fiji Water bottle is the one that Lemon handles the most.
The montage begins with a Japanese schoolgirl at a vending machine. The water bottle falls out and gets stuck label side up inside the vending machine. The schoolgirl says something nasty in Japanese.
Lemon notices the stuck water bottle inside the vending machine. He buys a different drink for a Tangerine that unstuck the water bottle. Various scenes show him holding and drinking from the water bottle. Especially before and after Ladybug puts sleeping powder inside the water bottle.
Talk about a product placement.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Sony reached out to Fiji with the script for “Bullet Train” two years ago. Fiji Water had bold product placements in the past. Like photobombing the red carpet at the 2019 Golden Globes with a model holding a tray of Fiji Water in the background.
Most brands would avoid having a product placement in a violent movie. “Bullet Train” isn’t as a stylistically violent as Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill, Volume One,” with gratuitous blood sprays everywhere. There’s only one gratuitous blood spray to emphasize an assassin’s death scene.
The Fiji Water bottle literally saves the day and becomes the breakout star for the movie. Hence, the title card and montage for a product placement.
Never mind that Fiji Water isn’t a Japanese brand.