The secret ingredients to the perfect gunpowder milkshake? Bullets and an ass-kicking Karen Gillan, complete with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Navot Papushado directs Gunpowder Milkshake, an action thriller starring Gillan as Sam, a hitwoman who works for a crime syndicate named The Firm. After a job goes wrong, Sam must protect an 8-year-old girl as she fights off the assassins hired to kill her.
As a species, we evolved to love two things in life: Netflix and action movies. Netflix gives us a reason to chill, and action films give us a reason to cheer. When our two loves come together, we can get awesome movies like Extraction or not-awesome movies like Spenser Confidential. So, where does this movie land?
It’s kind of awesome. This is the type of movie you put on with a loved one at night and just enjoy. You can have a lot of fun with a movie like this, as it’s a kick-ass treat with a wonderful cast of female action heroes that are visibly enjoying themselves in these roles.
The first thirty minutes of this film? Not quite what you would expect. You can tell that writers Ehud Lavski and Papushado decided to go with a more character-based opening that sets up our protagonist, Sam, and her relationship with her mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey), who was absent for her childhood.
We also get a look at The Firm and how things work there. The Firm can feel inspired by The Continental of the John Wick universe, with its specific set of rules and resources that the hitmen use. However, the film chooses to hint at action sequences during the opening act rather than show them, hiding the violence from the audience for as long as possible.
But after half an hour of setup, Papushado dusted off her hands and gave us the action we were anticipating, and it does not disappoint. The film throws setpiece after setpiece at us with unique fight choreography, and audiences are likely to eat it up.
Sometimes, the action can feel reminiscent of old martial arts films, with the visceral hand-to-hand combat sequences, the use of improvised weapons, and putting the hero at disadvantages that they must fight their way out of. This style leads to some truly entertaining sequences, especially at a bowling alley and a hospital.
The action is surprisingly memorable, as each setpiece feels very distinct from the other. The biggest action setpiece comes at the end of the second act, with a gigantic library shootout that you could only witness in this movie or your local library if you dare make a sound.
But the characters are one of the film’s weaker links; most of the development goes to Sam and Scarlet, the mother and daughter who anchor the film with emotional weight. However, the three assassins of the sisterhood (Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino) have nothing distinct about them besides their ethnicities, and they all feel like they have the same personality.
The film has a bit of an offbeat tone with very hammy moments. Young Chloe Coleman is charming as Emily, but she is essentially playing the same smart-aleck action hero sidekick she portrayed in last year’s My Spy. Somehow, even in a female-led action vehicle, we’re still getting damsels in distress.
Furthermore, the villains are forgettable. They feel like an endless factory line of goons with guns who shoot things. And after the bloody, stylized violence of the library shootout, the final act does not try to outdo the second act at all, and the action sequence we get looks cool, but it’s a bit too brief.
Ah, what the hell? Don’t worry about the plot armor our heroes are protecting themselves with or the generic story that’s been done countless times, even in this year’s Those Who Wish Me Dead. It’s a fun movie that strikes up the right emotions with its neon color palette and surplus of bullets, punches, and blood. It’s so easy to turn this movie on and enjoy it that the flaws don’t matter that much.
Some people just don’t like action movies, and this movie won’t change their minds. But for those who like to turn on movies and have fun with a group of super slick female action stars while slurping a sweet dairy confection, Gunpowder Milkshake is the perfect treat to gulp down on a Friday night.
Grade: ★★★✬☆ [7/10, B-]
Jonathan’s Tips: Enjoy this movie. It’s not high art, but boy, it’s a lot of fun.
Gunpowder Milkshake releases on Netflix on July 14, 2021.