Just the name, “Gunpowder Milkshake” alone sounds like the coolest title for a movie. It works even more so as the title to Netflix’s all female gun-fu actioner that looks and feels like the adaptation of a comic book, but it is in fact a wholly original story. “Gunpowder Milkshake” owes a lot to it’s influence from Charlize Theron’s “Atomic Blonde” with it’s female badassery and the neon infused look. It can’t go unmentioned that the “John Wick” films and French filmmaker Luc Besson’s earlier works like: “La Femme Nikita”, “The Professional” and even “Lucy” are all inspirations.
Karen Gillan (“Guardians Of The Galaxy”) plays Sam, a contract killer for an organization known as “The Firm”. Lena Headey is her mom, who had been The Firm’s top killer until she screwed up and went on the run that left her daughter in the care of Nathan (Paul Giamatti), who helped mold Sam into the organization’s new top agent.
We then jump 15 years later and Sam runs afoul from her bosses by killing the wrong person (the son of a violent big shot), then chooses to help Emily (Chloe Coleman from “My Spy”), a young girl The Firm has marked for death. Suddenly on her own with an entire army of heavily armed goons on her tail, Sam is in need of some help if she has even a wisp of a chance of survival. Help comes in the form of Sam’s three “aunts”, played by an all-star lineup that includes Angela Bassett as Anna May, Carla Gugino as Mathilde and Michelle Yeoh as Florence.
Drop the record needle and cue up The Eurythmics “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”, because that’s exactly what these ladies are doing. They run a library where the reading material is loaded with more than information and the Self Help section is fully stocked with more than books on how to better ones self.
The film’s first act doesn’t seem to be having as fun as the last two acts and instead the first forty minutes is a chore to get through as screenwriters Ehud Lavski and Navot Papushado (also the film’s director), tries to build a universe that’s very “John Wick”-ian. Even including a ’50s diner which fills in for “John Wick‘s” hotel The Continental.
A highlight brawl in the second act is where the movie finds it’s footing and starts to have fun with the concept. The fight has Sam fighting as what she refers to as “Boneheads” in a Skittle-colored bowling alley, where a panda-shaped suitcase comes into use. From here on out “Gunpowder Milkshake” keeps throwing action sequences at you, one after another that leads up to the highlight of the film in it’s big climatic finale of bloodshed that plays to the tune of Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart”.
In an even better fight scene at a doctor’s office sees the “Boneheads” hopped up on laughing gas and Sam without the use of her arms. It’s a wild sequence and “Gunpowder Milkshake” creates these sequences that have bursts of insanity, as director Navot Papushado choreographs an enormous amount of cinematic gunplay and hand to hand fights. There’s a lot of personality that goes into Papushado’s action sequences, mixing brutality with humor. All the while Lavski and Papushado’s script tries to rethink of ways to build a universe and a genre that has been mostly controlled by male power.
“Gunpowder Milkshake” has franchise possibilities to it and while it has an uneven first act, there are worse films that have potential franchises on the horizon. Papushado’s film isn’t unique, but I only hope that next time Papushado would throw in more of the unexpected.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)