Gunpowder Milkshake has proven two things: John Wick-style action flicks are here to stay, and Karen Gillan needs to be an action film lead more often because she’s amazing at it. Navot Papushado‘s Gunpowder Milkshake takes place in the world of assassins. Sam (Karen Gillan) is a cold-blooded assassin-for-hire who works for an ambiguous crime organization called The Firm. When a job goes wrong, she ends up on the wrong side of the organization and the caretaker for a young girl named Emily (Chloe Coleman). As she fights to survive, she is reunited with her estranged mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) and her mother’s associates, The Librarians: Anna May (Angela Bassett), Mathilde (Carla Gugino), and Florence (Michelle Yeoh).
The backbone of Gunpowder Milkshake relies on Gillan’s strength as an action star. It’s a joy to watch her as she kicks and flips and kills her way through the onslaught of henchmen sent her way. The fight choreography is creative, for the most part, and it lets Gillan show off her skill both with a weapon and in hand-to-hand combat. Out of all of the good things to come out of the film, Gillan has to be the best. In addition to the action, her scenes with the young Coleman also add a much-needed punch of emotion into the story. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but in such a stylized film, it’s necessary.
Although it’s never explicitly stated, there’s a lot of Girl Power vibes when it comes to Gunpowder Milkshake. All of our heroes are women, the endless slew of henchmen and the villainous Firm seem to be solely populated by men. The powerhouse cast of Headey, Bassett, Gugino, and Yeoh help bolster this without cheapening it. It is immensely enjoyable to watch these amazing actresses take on both a gentle and maternal role toward Sam and Emily, while also holding their own against The Firm.
For Papushado’s part, his directorial style is steady, the film is bolstered by its slick, candy-colored, neon styling, with Michael Seresin‘s cinematography aiding Papushado’s filming style. There has been a lot of effort put into production design and it shows. Each and every set piece is meticulously planned, giving a fairy tale feel to the world that these assassins inhabit. Combine that with the touches of absurdist humor, and Gunpowder Milkshake feels distinctly out of time and fablesque.
As far as Papushado and Ehud Lavski‘s script? Well, it’s not much to write home about. The plot simply is there to push the audience into the world of these assassins. Much like John Wick, the plot is simple and primarily serves as an excuse for the action pieces. But the pacing feels off in the third act, when all-out war jumps from assassin to assassin in point of view, breaking up the action. As much as I love to see Bassett, Gugino, and Yeoh in action, it’s the weakest fight out of the bunch.
You know what you’re getting when you walk into Gunpowder Milkshake. There are absolutely no surprises or twists, instead, the film is more of an all-out brawl. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Gillan leads a fun, kaleidoscopic film about family, forgiveness, reconciliation, and new beginnings. It’s a joy to watch her punch her way through her problems in a shiny tracksuit, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Gunpowder Milkshake streams tomorrow, July 14th, on Netflix