In Gunpowder Milkshake, Karen Gillan is Sam, an abandoned daughter to contract killer mother (as played by Lena Headey). Deciding to pick up the family trade, Paul Giamatti plays her handler, Nathan, and everything seems to be fine. That is until one day, Sam decides to go rogue.
Sent to kill a man who has stolen from Nathan’s firm, Sam takes pity on him when she learns he needed the money as ransom for his kidnapped daughter. Agreeing to handle the exchange in his place, everything goes sideways when Nathan dispatches extra hitmen to return the money. With three of Nathan’s hitmen lying dead and millions of unretrievable dollars now turned to ash, how is Sam going to make things right with a destitute kid on her arm?
Well, let’s find out.
… is a curious case of mixed fortune and grasping ambition.
Whilst clearly operating in the same twilight yet pastel neon-coloured world as John Wick, director Navot Papushado‘s Gunpowder Milkshake relies on that association a little too heavily for comfort. Gamely kicking off with a John Barry harpsichord motif that immediately echoes seminal TV show The Persuaders. Yet, in moving the action to “The Library” which performs the same function as John Wick’s “Hotel”, we quickly find ourselves back in a Keanu-Reeves-like landscape.
Books can be loaned out containing specific firearms and Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino all get to chew disapproving amounts of scenery as Sam brings trouble to their off-the-shelf armoury. However, this is where the movie wants to take us. The bad guys are going to get blown away by the girls and I’m all for it. However, in its attempt to positively promote its “girls-doing-for-it-themselves” theme, a lot of things get lost in the formula and the first casualty is a sense of real jeopardy. A bit like director Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, where the whole thing runs on rails with too many pop songs, none of its characters get to draw any genuine breath. Couple that with a further fall into eclipse where you can not only predict what is going to happen but also what people are going to say, and the proceedings become a coffin lid that shuts itself. All of which, it has to be said – is not the fault of the decent cast.
In a bowling jacket on loan from Kill Bill‘s Uma Thurman, Karen Gillan comfortably occupies the movie’s protagonist Sam as do jaded Charlie’s Angels Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino – and yet none of them get to be stretched by a plot that achingly plays to their back catalogue. With the boys relegated to papiermaché moving targets, only Paul Giamatti gets to deliver in a non-taxing role as Ian McShane from John Wick. -And whilst I approve the multitudinous slaughter of toxic masculinity, it’s here where Navot Papushado‘s third feature misses its big-budget opportunity by a mile.
By later ramping up its increasing desire to be a feminist call-to-arms – and by that I mean with girls punching and kicking and harder than the guys – Gunpowder Milkshake‘s predictable yet quirky charm quickly falls flat. Whereas Atomic Blonde got it right, with Charlize Theron facing down properly formidable opponents, none of the fall-down-on-request types here adds any flavour to a formula that is so clearly out on loan.