The Stream: The first hour is too slow and repetitive.
The Big Screen: Stylish and cool action sequences pep up the second half.
The Final Bill: An imitation of other assassin movies, but entertaining for the most part.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Navot Papushado
Writers: Navot Papushado, Ehud Lavski
Stars: Karen Gillan, Joanna Bobin, Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Rating: R ( Violence, Strong Language)
Runtime: 1 hour 49 minutes
Production Companies: StudioCanal, The Picture Company, Studio Babelsberg
Platform: Netflix released July 14, 2021
Gunpowder Milkshake premiered on Netflix this weekend with an intriguing title and a top-notch cast. The high octane, action flick directed by Navot Papushado is full of style but low on originality as it borrows from John Wick and Kill Bill schools of assassin cinema. Here’s the story: Sam (Karen Gillan) was abandoned by her mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey), when she was only 12 years old. Scarlet was an assassin, who had to leave her daughter after a job went wrong. Sam was left to be raised by the crime syndicate, The Firm, who expect to to carry out their bidding with precision and ruthlessness. On a fateful job, Sam kills a man, who got caught up in a situation because he’s trying to protect his 8 year old daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman). Sam takes it upon her to protect Emily and dismantle The Firm as they turn on her with the help of the Librarian (Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and Carla Gugino). Girl power, butt kicking and lots of shooting ensue.
As these action thrillers go, the viewer wants to be grabbed and never let go of until the final shots. Unfortunately, Gunpowder Milkshake does not do that. Sure, there are early action sequences that are entertaining like a funny fight between Sam and some henchmen in a bowling alley, but there is a lot of exposition and these early fights get repetitive. Unlike a lot of movies these days, I must commend Papushado, who co-wrote this film, on writing an original story as so many are based on other IP. Sequels and franchises abound. Papushado, however, seems to have culled together this story from a mish-mosh of other assassin plots and stuck an ensemble of women in the main roles. Even though it’s an original story, it lacks originality in the plot and the derivative nature of the story is not so great. On the other hand, it really doesn’t matter the ins-and-outs of the story because we’re really just here for the fighting and action.
In the plus column for Gunpowder Milkshake, the ensemble of women here is a big draw. Game of Thrones fans want to see Lena Headey as an action star. She’s fierce and smart. She even gets some good one liners, here and there. As a mother-daughter story, the movie tries to put some emotional stakes to the story between Sam and Scarlet. It works somewhat. The other standouts are the trio of Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh. Whenever these three are on screen, you know it is going to be fire. The energy infused in the film comes from these women taking the reins and never letting go. In fact, their all-too-brief scene in the first hour probably hurts the film because you’re just waiting for them to come back. Bassett, Gugino and Yeoh almost save the movie in the second hour.
I’ll also give a quick shout out to the costume design. There is a lot of color used throughout the film. Neon is a striking motif that the filmmakers have used. The color and costumes add to the energy and visual depth of the film. Lastly, some of the action scenes, especially in the second half, are quite cool when it goes beyond the same-old-same-old shoot outs. The characters get to be clever and athletic, which is always entertaining.
I suspect there will be a sequel and, hopefully, the filmmakers will realize that the gold for the Gunpowder Milkshake franchise is in Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino. Take note, Papushado.
Ultimately, Gunpowder Milkshake is a fine action thriller with an unoriginal assassin plot but with a great supporting cast. There is a lot of style here and, if you like shoot-outs, then you will have your fill of those as well. For me, this is a good stream on a Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn, if you can get through the slow and repetitive first hour. For those looking for a John Wick and Kill Bill mash-up, grab your big box of popcorn and enjoy.