On July 14, Netflix dropped its newest original film “Gunpowder Milkshake” and just like the title, it was anything but ordinary.
The protagonist is Sam (Karen Gillan), who we are introduced to in a flashback to her as a child. Her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) is an assassin who was forced to leave Sam behind and hide after a mission went wrong. The film jumps to the present which is 15 years later and Sam is also an assassin working for the same organization her mom did, “The Firm.” The head of The Firm, Nathan (Paul Giamatti), assigns Sam to retrieve stolen money and kill the man behind the heist. When she shoots the man she discovers that he stole the money to save his eight year old daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman) who was kidnapped. Sam saves Emily but not before the money is destroyed in the process, leaving Nathan no choice but to order a hit on Sam which forces her to hide with Emily. While trying to hide Sam runs into mother again and they end up joining forces to fight off the hitmen that are after her.
This atypical crime-action flick was directed and co-written by Navot Papushado along with Ehud Lavski. Papushado has previously directed thriller/horror films such as “Rabies” and “Big Bad Wolves” but this is his first action project. Despite being written by men, the movie is completely led by powerful and ruthless women. It almost seems like every male character in the movie is outwitted and defeated by a female. All of the female characters are no nonsense type women and we rarely see them smile. Especially the trio of assassins, Madeleine, Florence and Anna May (Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett) who used to work alongside Scarlet before she disappeared. When the movie introduces them, we learn that the three of them are “librarians” that work at a secret weapons armory that is disguised as a library.
While on the topic of defense, every fight scene was engaging and suspenseful with a sprinkle of gore. A stand out scene is when Sam, with the help of Emily, fights off three henchmen in a hospital completely by herself with no control of her arms since the doctor numbed them specifically so she couldn’t fight. Emily taped a gun to one of Sam’s hands and a knife to the other and Sam was able to fight using her legs and other objects. Another great scene is towards the end of the movie when Sam, Scarlet and the three librarians are fighting off Virgil (Adam Nagaitis) and his massive crew of hitmen. With the help of large automatic rifles, smoke bombs and even choking people out with metal chains they were able to take out all of them except for one. Don’t worry, they made sure to get him at the end though.
“Gunpowder Milkshake” has been described as a John Wick knock-off because of their similarities. They both take place in dark, fictional worlds where violence is part of life and everything revolves around merciless assassins. It takes a different approach to action films. Unlike a superhero film where the action scenes are fast-paced with quick camera cuts and close ups, this movie incorporates wide shots and slow motion during its action packed scenes. Some have also called it a neon-noir because of the dark themes combined with several neon lit scenes.
Although the fight scenes deliver and keep the audience entertained, the writing and story ultimately falls short. The story is not unique and does have a similar style to movies like “Kill Bill” and “Atomic Blonde” featuring a mission gone wrong and violent massacres. Audiences also do not get a chance to form a deeper connection with any of the characters which is crucial for keeping people engaged. Even though almost all of them are assassins except for Emily, there still could have been opportunity for more backstory and character development so viewers could see past their obvious cold-blooded nature. The writers could have even taken the opportunity to show Sam and Scarlet as they begin to rebuild their relationship after being separated for 15 years. Exploring the dynamic of their relationship would’ve made a big impact on the storyline since reuniting was one of the film’s major plot points. Any action movie can attract its audience with violence and intricate combat choreography, but the story is what will keep people wanting more.
“Gunpowder Milkshake” is available to stream on Netflix.