This milkshake brings no one to the yard
Gunpowder Milkshake is available on Netflix
By Diana Beechener
When her hitwoman mother abandoned her to keep her safe, Sam’s (Karen Gillan: The Call of the Wild) world falls apart. Nursing massive trust and abandonment issues, Sam follows in her mother’s footsteps, becoming an assassin for The Firm. The organization is the type of vague shady group that controls the world and runs stables of assassins in these types of films. Sam’s one of their best operatives—cool, collected, and utterly ruthless.
Until one of her jobs goes south and she’s faced with a kid. Sam can’t bring herself to endanger a child, and the firm decides that their top worker has become a liability.
Now with a kill order on her head and a kid to look after, Sam’s got to make a plan. She goes back to her root, reconnecting the league of female hitwomen that her mother had been part of. Though reluctant at first, the women take up the fight, and decide it’s time for them to take their power back from The Firm.
A group of women shooting guns and throwing punches as they take down men trying to hold them down: it should be an easy, winning premise. Too bad Gunpowder Milkshake is a plodding action flick with nothing to say and no one to say it. Instead of a feminist rally cry, director Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves) lets his movie die with a whimper. There’s no tension, the characters are bland, and the dialogue verges on idiotic.
Papushado can do better. Big Bad Wolves was an innovative, brisk thriller with crisp action. His second feature is a bloated mess that offers Tarantino-style dialogue and John Wick-style fight scenes. It brings out the worst of both. Lines feel silly instead of snappy. Action feels interminable instead of breathtaking.
Gunpowder Milkshake is a movie that couldn’t exist without John Wick. It’s not that the film is a rip off—which, to be clear, it is—it’s that the film cannot make any sense unless you’ve seen the Wick movies. While the Wick franchise work to build a world of secret assassins, Gunpowder Milkshake just assumes you’ve seen it and understand that they’re doing the same thing. Is Sam a hitwoman employed by a shadowy underworld that seemingly controls the city? Yes. Why? Don’t ask so many questions, just watch the ladies punch people.
That’s not to say there isn’t something to the concept. Clearly the sets were meticulously styled with candy colors and fun touches. The idea of a library staffed with female hitwomen with books filled with guns, cash, and knives, is brilliant. But no one bothers to develop it. We don’t know why it’s there, why only women run it, and if they’re part of The Firm or some type of independent contractor. It’s merely there, and forgotten, like so much else in this film.
Though the narrative shortcomings are legion, the worst crime the film commits is its tragic misuse of talent. Casting Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino, and Lena Headey and giving them nothing to do is an exercise in frustration. When Yeoh finally gets a chance to fight, she lights up the screen with effortless skills. Bassett is saddled with some of the most unwieldly dialogue I’ve seen on screen in decades. She does her best, but even brilliant actors can only do so much. Gugino has barely anything to do, while Headey seems to be working overtime to create any sort of interest.
But Gunpowder Milkshake isn’t sure what it wants to focus on, so it merely follows Sam. Gillan does her best, but her American accent is affect-less, which only serves to make Sam more of a blank slate. It’s as if we’re following a placeholder through the movie, waiting for the writer to fill in an actual character.
While there are kernels of interest peppered around Gunpowder Milkshake, nothing pops. If a sequel wanted to tell the story of the librarians, I’d probably give it another shot. But as it is, this milkshake is getting sent back.
Poor Action * R * 114 mins.