So, I find it peculiar that people have a blast (rightly) with movies, such as John Wick and Taken, but a movie in that mold, Gunpowder Milkshake on Netflix, is derided and panned by a good number of critics and people on Reddit. I wonder what the difference is? Okay, I’m being snarky and perhaps it’s not fair to ascribe double standard sexism to people who didn’t like this film, but I don’t get it! As I said on Twitter, I feel like I watched a different Gunpowder Milkshake when I saw the hate it was getting. I particularly don’t get the knocks on the fight choreography, which I thought was inventive, stylish and cool.
This movie was so much fun and I would put it right with John Wick and Taken as a blast.
The film is directed by Navot Papushado, who has mostly only done Israeli horror films up to this point. As far as I can tell, this is his first major American feature film. He also wrote the screenplay alongside Ehud Lavski. This was Lavski’s first screenplay. Given the limited experience both have with filmmaking and screenplays, I can understand the criticism for the film that the dialogue was weak in places and the film was largely “style over substance.”
But hey, when the style is this fun, I don’t mind.
The gist of the story is that Sam (played by Karen Gillan) is a young assassin for The Firm, a shadowy group that runs the world seemingly. When a job goes sideways — an accountant stole money from The Firm to cover ransom for his kidnapped daughter by some other goons wearing monster masks and The Firm sends Sam to recover the money, only for her to shoot and kill the dad before learning what the scenario was — Sam ends up saving and protecting an eight and three quarter-year-old, Emily (played by Chloe Coleman).
When the money gets blown up by the dumb goons, The Firm, whose HR person is Nathan (played by Paul Giamatti), then comes for Sam. It must’ve been a considerable amount of money for them to turn on an assassin of theirs. On top of that, in a prior job, Sam killed the son of another goon and all of his goons are coming after her, too. To get added backup, Sam then teams up with her mother, Scarlet (played by Lena Headey), also an assassin and who hasn’t been around for 15 years and the librarians, also assassins, Madeleine (played by Carla Gugino), Florence (played by Michelle Yeoh) and Anna May (played by Angela Bassett).
Sam and Emily were such a funny, fun pairing. It was cracking me up that Emily kept calling herself eight and three quarters. Or asking Sam if she’s a serial killer. Then when she introduces herself later, she says, “Hi, I’m Emily, I’m her apprentice.” She’s ready to learn the assassin life! And when things go sideways and there’s violence, Sam tells Emily the same thing Scarlet told her when she was young, “Keep your eyes closed.” Aww.
Kid actors can be really hit or miss, but Coleman was great in her role.
Sam is so darn cool in this and kicking butt while wearing a bowler’s jacket. First, the neon-lit fight scene in the bowling alley, where with only a case of money and the weapons that become handy, Sam takes on three of The Firm’s goons. She’s brutal and effective. I saw people slamming this scene as terrible fight choreography and that Gillan seemed stiff in her movements. What?! Again, what movie were they watching?! That whole scene was awesome.
Later at the doctor’s office, the doctor is able to jab Sam with some sort of paralyzing agent. Her arms go limp. The three goons she beat up at the bowling alley are there and ready to finish her off. She has Emily tape a gun to one hand and a knife to the other. With limp arms, she mercilessly brutalizes and kills all three. That was inventive and unique action.
Another great scene that follows is in the parking garage when Sam and Emily are trying to get away from the other set of goons. Emily is steering the car because Sam’s arms are still limp. Again, another inventive way to do a “car chase” in an action movie.
The rest of the women get a chance to shine at the library taking down more goons and then we get yet another awesome, inventive scene to close out the film. At the diner, where the goons showed up without guns because the diner is ostensibly a gun-free zone, the women turn the tables and have the guns. We get a tracking shot from one end of the diner to the other in slow-motion as the women shoot and attack the men. So. Fun.
I thought this was a star-making movie for Gillan. She’s a butt-kicker and plays it convincingly. I didn’t realize until doing research on who she is that she plays Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! And she also had a great role in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I’m actually surprised she hasn’t broken out even more. She’s great and someone I’m going to keep an eye on going forward.
I’d love to see more of these Gunpowder Milkshake films, too, particularly to help world-build and build out the mythos here with The Firm. The first John Wick movie was mostly a revenge-style film and it was the sequels that did the aforementioned. So, maybe that’s what will happen here.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun, stylish action movie, you can’t go wrong with this one.