Lena Headey in Gunpowder Milkshake.
Photo: Empire Entertainment
WHERE TO WATCH:
Now showing in cinemas
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
To protect an 8-year-old girl, a dangerous assassin reunites with her mother and her lethal associates to take down a ruthless crime syndicate and its army of henchmen.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Hardcore assassin is betrayed by the organisation they work for while trying to protect an innocent caught in the fray. It feels like this overworked storyline has inundated the current slate of women-driven action films, from the upcoming Kate to The Protégé. Storywise, Gunpowder Milkshake is no different, with an uninspiring narrative that goes nowhere exciting, but it manages to beat down any misgivings about its plot with electrically charged characters brought to life by the best women in action and spectacularly imaginative action choreography that’s more art than anything else.
In this case, assassin Sam messes up a job and is thrown to the wolves by her employers while trying to protect a girl she picked up on another job. She turns to her mother, who abandoned her 15 years ago and a sisterhood of deadly librarians to try and survive the night, leaving behind a trail of chaos and dead men.
Besides the generic blandness of the story – outside of the assassin mother and delightfully lethal aunts – it’s also not the best written either. The logical flaws abound, from rushed origin stories that make little sense, no twists to speak of, and the real villains never really get their due. You sometimes even get a little frustrated with the lack of coherence in the story because the sharp dialogue, quirky humour and distinctive action sequences had to be pulled out of a deep pool of talent somewhere. Perhaps it’s a question of experience rather than talent, as its director and co-writer Navot Papushado is quite fresh on the scene with this as his first mainstream film. The man clearly has vision, a mix of Edgar Wright’s brightness and comedy and Quentin Tarantino’s bloody glorified violence, but still has to hone his skills when it comes to laying a movie’s foundations.
Luckily for Papushado, it’s easy enough to look past the movie’s flaws for a good time in the cinema. It’s filled to the brim with fleshed-out characters that surprisingly avoids the toxic male gaze that loves to objectify women in action films. The film actually takes great pains to avoid gendered plot lines completely, treating the majority of women characters as they would have if they were men.
It’s a bit hard to tell, though, if the success of the characters is due to a good director or rather through the actors’ sheer force of talent because it really is a dream cast. Karen Gillan yet again cements herself as an action star in the role of a slightly psychotic Sam with mommy issues, bringing the performance as well as the kicks. Lena Heady screaming in the air while shooting men trying to hurt her daughter will forever live rent-free in my head, and both are backed up by the veteran talents of Michelle Yeoh and Angela Basset – both around the 60-years mark and still badass as hell. The hardness of these characters is sweetened around the edges with the gentle Carla Gugino as the third of the sisterhood, and the adorable Chloe Coleman, who at such a young age already has racked up a decent filmography. Everyone – even the hilarious trio of disposable henchmen that managed to steal the show in their scenes – was invested in their roles and had the most fun.
This is also seen in the action, where the stunt choreographer was given all the creative freedom to craft not only great visual gags but just generally impressive work that will make your awe audible. All I’m going to say is that Angela Basset slams one man’s face into a milkshake – part of the most epic slow-mo fight scene ever – and the chaotic enthusiasm she does it with is worth every penny of the movie ticket.
It’s easy enough to pick apart the flaws of Gunpowder Milkshake, but you end up not really wanting to. Its strengths far outshine its weaknesses, oozing with charm and vivid cinematography. If you’re looking for some unadulterated fun violence you can lose yourself in, just order from the Gunpowder Milkshake menu and tuck in.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
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