DAVID Leitch almost seemed to emerge from nowhere back in 2014, when his co-directorial debut - John Wick - took the world by storm.

Since then, the erstwhile stunt double has carved out an extraordinarily successful run of action thriller hits. Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs and Shaw….all Leitch.

Hoping to continue his success, Bullet Train is Leitch’s latest and arrives this week. While the film might look electric on paper, there’s a steaming trail of controversy.

Published a decade ago as Maria Beetle; Bullet Train’s literary inspiration was only translated to English in 2021. The fierce popularity of Kōtarō Isaka’s novel had, however, already long since caught the attention of Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua.

Early intention to produce a brutal adaptation, in the R-rated vogue of the Die Hard franchise, soon gave way to a more lighthearted direction of travel. It was at this stage that Leitch was hired to direct. Who better to blend high energy thrills with a wicked sense of humour?

Back in his stunting days, Leitch doubled for many of Hollywood’s biggest names. On five occasions, this included Brad Pitt.

Leitch had already exploited his connection to Pitt once with a cameo coup for Deadpool 2 but, in Bullet Train, seized the opportunity to make him his leading man. There is considerable irony in the fact that Pitt performs 95 per cent of his own stunts for the film.

Pitt plays Ladybug, a seasoned but deeply unfortunate American assassin, whose dreams of retirement are curtailed when his handler - Sandra Bullock’s Maria Beetle - reels him back for one last job.

It’s a simple mission: collect a briefcase from a bullet train routed from Tokyo to Kyoto. The complication is that said train is chock-a-block with vying assassins with similar and overlapping agendas.

Among these agents are Joey King’s British assassin, The Prince, and fellow ‘Brits’ Tangerine (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). Andrew Koji joins the fray as Yuichi Kimura, a Japanese assassin, while there are roles too for Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz and Logan Lerman.

Though an infectious ride. Bullet Train has been met with fair accusations of ‘whitewashing’.

While the setting of Isaka’s novel is unchanged, his entirely East Asian cast of characters have largely been replaced by Caucasians for Leitch’s film.

In the here and now, it’s unjustifiable and in wholly poor taste.