Gunpowder Milkshake is the second female assassin film I’ve seen in a week, following on from Netflix’s Kate. This one follows female assassins that work for a shady all-male ruling organisation, but yet still seems to follow the same tired formula we’ve seen many times before. Aside from a funky look and some decent fight scenes, there’s isn’t much to like here.
The film follows Sam (Karen Gillan), an assassin working for The Firm, a shady organisation run by old men who pretty much control the world. As a child, Sam’s mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) also worked for the Firm and often took her daughter to a diner that acted as a safe house to others in their trade. After a job goes wrong, Scarlet is forced to go into hiding, leaving Sam in the hands of Firm member Nathan (Paul Giamatti).
15 years later, Sam is tasked with retrieving money from an accountant who has stolen a large amount of money from the Firm. In a scuffle, she accidentally shoots him and then discovers he had stolen the money to pay a ransom for his kidnapped daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman). After taking the man to a clinic, Sam heads off to retrieve Emily and also keep the money to return to her employers. However, after crippling Nathan’s men and losing the money, Sam is now forced to flee with Emily after the Firm turn on her and hand her location over to a gangster who wants revenge for a previous kill (Ralph Ineson). She turns to the librarians for help, Anna May (Angela Bassett), Madeleine (Carla Gugino) and Florence (Michelle Yeoh), a group of women who use a library as a front for distributing weapons in books, and also runs into her long lost mother in an attempt to save herself and Emily.
I can see what director Navot Papushado was trying to do here and pull off something very Tarantino-esque, full of blood, gore and kickass female characters with a vocabulary that is strangely similar to a lot of Tarantino’s films. It’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t work at all. The film looks good, the unknown setting full of neon, picturesque scenery and buildings are stunning and there is one fight scene (at the library) at least that is rather impressive. But for me, this is where it stops. There is far too much slow motion right from the start, mostly in rather innocuous, meaningless scenes, but it also ruined one of the final fight scenes as it was entirely set in slow motion. For me, there are certain times when slow-motion works (think the Quicksilver Pentagon scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past), but I’m afraid Gunpowder Milkshake doesn’t pull it off. Considering the fact that the fight choreography is also very slow and obvious, this might explain why there’s an overuse of slow motion to hide the choreography flaws.
It also suffers from a cringe-worthy script and plot that can’t be improved by even this seasoned cast and the mother-daughter bonding scenes are especially embarrassing. The cast is given very little to work with although the most worrying was Karen Gillan. Her Sam is almost monotone and robotic throughout and is virtually unlikeable. It’s only when she starts to show some emotion that her tone changes and she actually becomes a deeper character, but if it wasn’t for this there’d have been no character development whatsoever. The only actor that comes out of this in a positive light is Chloe Coleman as Emily, who plays an engaging and surprisingly resourceful young character.
My biggest issue is that this just seems to be rehashing something we’ve seen done a lot recently and to be frank we’ve seen it done much better too. I’m all for feminism but the female assassin film is getting a little stale now, especially when men are only featured as bad or villainous – is this really progress? I’m not sure.
Aside from good looks, a good soundtrack and one decent fight scene, Gunpowder Milkshake was a huge disappointment. Trying hard to be similar to the likes of Tarantino, it fails miserably.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!