The Bullet Train is leaving the station and you’d better be on board, because it’s one heck of a ride. Take John Wick and Kill Bill, add a pinch of Snowpiercer, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this outrageous comical action movie from the director of Deadpool 2.

Brad Pitt headlines Bullet Train, playing an assassin with the codename Ladybug, who boards the eponymous vehicle in Tokyo with one simple directive: find a briefcase and get out. He’s a highly skilled killer with a preference for peaceful outcomes, and when it becomes apparent that the train is loaded with fellow assassins – each on board for different reasons – he is convinced that he’s a lightning rod for bad luck.

The other travelling killers include Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who are brothers from other mothers and known in the assassin world as “The Twins”; The Wolf (Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny); and The Prince (Joey King), who is a lethal femme fatale in the guise of a petite schoolgirl. Throw in a handful of other players, including a father seeking revenge (Andrew Koji) and Ladybug’s handler, and it’s a recipe for a spicy dish full of slick, super-stylish and ultra-violent action that hits the platform running and doesn’t let up.

Of course with those aforementioned titles as points of reference, Bullet Train isn’t breaking any new ground and it exploits the genre playbook to the degree of being almost self-referential. The script is loaded with gags both visual and verbal, and the story relies on recurring motifs and jokes. The philosophy of Thomas the Tank Engine, for example, is integral to the narrative, and references to it occupy almost every scene. And it works. The same can be said for Ladybug’s pacifism, which informs all of his decisions.

Pitt embraces the action with the enthusiasm and athleticism of a guy 20 years his junior, and we can only imagine that his immediate reaction to seeing Keanu Reeves and Bob Odenkirk kicking ass – in John Wick (which Leitch co-directed) and Nobody, respectively may have been, “That’s what I want to do!” He chose the right film for it, and with Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Hobbs & Shaw) at the wheel, there was never any doubt that Bullet Train was going to be an over the top, no-holds-barred exploit.

Furthermore, the soundtrack is just as killer as the characters themselves. With Japanese-infused covers of songs – including a fabulous version of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive during the opening credits – the overall soundscape is a brash and poppy accompaniment to the unfurling action.

Bullet Train is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. It’s super-fun and loaded with surprises, and audiences will benefit from avoiding as much insight into the production as possible. With each act comes a new reveal, and as all of the assassins’ directives begin to entwine, a treasure trove of surprise additions to the already impressive cast awaits.

Interview with director David Leitch

In cinemas: August 4
Starring: Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King
Directed by: David Leitch