Gunpowder Milkshake review

Gunpowder Milkshake is the product of a very satisfied filmmaker trying his best to channel Quentin Tarantino by way of John Wick with disastrous results.

There’s really no need for a director to try and mimic an unrestrained, overindulgent Tarantino. The real deal has been doing that just fine for his last few films, thank you.

Director/co-screenwriter Navot Papushado really, really wants to show how well he can handle a film with little cohesive structure, needless slow-motion and an overall lack of identity. 

A major theme of Gunpowder Milkshake is a young apprentice learning the ways of their mentor. Maybe Papushado submitted the film as an audition to study under Tarantino? Regardless, the result is a frustrating, loud and obnoxious film that wastes its considerable talent.  

gunpowder milkshake review - paul giamatti and karen gillan

Sam (Karen Gillian, Avengers: Endgame) is a gun for hire for The Firm, an organization of old dudes with their clutches in a little bit of everything. She’s taken up the family business after her assassin mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones), had to run off after a job went south. 

Fifteen years later and Sam finds herself in a similar position after shooting a target who stole from The Firm to protect his daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman). 

Coleman’s big break was working alongside Dave Bautista in My Spy. Now that she’s scratched Gillian off her list she just needs to book her next roles with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Pom Klementieff to knock off the main cast of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Sam’s contact, Nathan (Paul Giamatti, The Phenom), doesn’t want to unleash the goon squad to get the money back, but Sam needs it to ensure Emily’s safety. Plans go even further awry prompting Sam to seek help from Scarlet’s associates, Anna May (Angela Bassett, Mission: Impossible – Fallout), Florence (Michelle Yeoh, Last Christmas) and Madeleine (Carla Gugino).

gunpowder milkshake review - michelle yeoh, angela bassett, carla gugino and karen gillan

These aren’t the normal aunties as the trio run a “library” where the books conceal an assortment of weapons for check out. Hopefully, Sam has enough to keep herself and Emily safe when Nathan releases the hounds. 

That’s a good premise. The only obvious problem will be the insecure dude bros hating on the film for featuring women as incredibly formidable fighters. Yet Papushado and co-screenwriter Ehud Lavski find every conceivable angle to ruin what should have been the start of a beautifully violent franchise for Netflix. 

First, there’s the score. Papushado takes the Tarantino route by going with these overly dramatic songs during every action scene. For his recent faults as a filmmaker, Tarantino has rarely stumbled on his musical selections. Gunsmoke Millkshake’s score is your neighbor’s music blaring at 3 a.m. loud. It’s annoying and unrelenting. 

gunpowder milkshake review - chloe coleman

The tone is all over the place too. Papushado and Lavski can’t figure out if they’re writing a Shaun of the Dead type slapstick comedy or a take it very seriously John Wick action piece. A few scenes after characters hop on crutches and aim in seriously comedic fashion, a forklift decapitates another character. It felt like the movie was trying to be all things to all audiences and succeeding at pleasing no one. 

Then there’s the action scenes with the overreliance on slow-motion. Used effectively, slo-mo provides that extra cool factor to fight scenes. When it’s done for every movement in a battle it comes off silly. 

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Initially, Sam sports a dark trench coat and hat like Carmen Sandiego when she’s really going incognito. Then for some random script reason that feels more like a homage to Uma Thurman’s Bride in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (itself a homage to Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon attire) she’s asked to change into a jacket.

Finally, the bad guy doesn’t actually do enough to truly warrant that distinction. He’s really on the kind of vengeance quest that would be the motivation for most heroes in this kind of film…with the switch that he’s the one with the army of henchmen. The fact that Sam isn’t innocent further muddies the story. 

Gillan deserved a lot better. Papushado has her act deadpan to play the cold, remorseless assassin. This trick works for John Wick, which uses Keanu Reeves’ lack of performance range to its benefit. Gillian has more layers easily able to pull off comedy, emotional drama, intense action and an aloofness that doesn’t feel overly rehearsed to be “cool.” 

gunpowder milkshake review - lena headey and karen gillan

The same could be said for Headey, Bassett, Yeoh and Gugino. At the very least they’ve been in enough good (and bad) films to treat this one appropriately by having fun chewing up the scenery with over the top dramatic performances and line delivery. 

Cinematographer Michael Seresin (War for the Planet of the Apes) bathed the film in bold, sumptuous neon hues to ensure the film at least looks good. Set designer Mark Rosinski (Atomic Blonde, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2) brings his expertise in crafting beautiful sets to destroy from the diner, library, doctor’s office and bowling alley. 

Gunpowder Milkshake is as messy as tipping back your semi-frozen drink only to realize too late the top wasn’t put on correctly. Could a sequel with better filmmakers address most of the problems? Most likely. The real question is does it warrant a second chance? 

Rating: 2 out of 10

Photo Credit: Netflix

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