Movie Review: Gunpowder Milkshake
Gunpowder Milkshake is about Sam, an assassin who works for The Firm. This is the same group her mother worked for before she disappeared fifteen years before. Unfortunately, while on a job, Sam has some collateral damage in the form of a rival boss' son. She's in hot water for that, but when she chooses the life of the 8 and 3/4 year old girl of the man she just killed over returning The Firm's money, the floodgates are opened and she is on the lam. She does have help, though, in long lost mom, Scarlet. Scarlet shows up to help out along with her friends at The Library. The film stars Karen Gillan, Freya Allen, Joanna Bobin, Lena Headey, Ralph Ineson, Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Michael Smiley, Chloe Coleman, and Paul Giamatti. The film is directed by Navot Papushado and written by Papushado and Ehud Lavski. The film is streaming on Netflix.
There's one thing that always bugs me in films with an organized crime element and the foot soldiers of that criminal undertaking. If the boss dies, and he's not related to you, he's just the one who pays your pay check, why would you keep fighting after he's dead? What's the point? Your paychecks are essentially frozen at that point. Yes, the boss' protégé will likely pick up where he left off wanting to smote all enemies, consolidate power, blah, blah, blah, but why in the midst of everything when the boss is on the ground, motionless do these men feel the need to continue the fight and die? Let's get a movie about that, the henchman's point of view.
You may notice my diversion tactic with the paragraph above. It's because I really didn't like this movie and I don't like to rag on a movie just because I didn't like it. I think there are fundamental problems with the film, which I will get to, but know that this one's not for me. I don't particularly enjoy this subgenre anyway, so that was already a shot against it. The shoot 'em up, fun around, gory type of worlds are just blasé to me because it's been done to death. Worlds where people refer to The Diner, The Firm, or The Library and everyone knows exactly what they're talking about and there seem to be no civilians anywhere are confounding. This format can be done right with the right character work, though.
That's where Gunpowder Milkshake fails the hardest is in its characters. Sam is, of course, the most well developed of anyone. We know she has abandonment issues, family issues, and intimacy issues. Though, what we know about everyone else is that they're completely one dimensional. Despite meaningful looks between the three of them, I have no idea who any of the three librarians are. Nathan, the HR rep for The Firm is a blank slate archetypal, pencil pusher. Scarlet, I guess, is better than the rest, but is a complete enigma from beginning to end. The rest I couldn't even begin to describe. They're a faceless mass meant to be vehicles for "cool" scenes.
Yes, this whole film is just about the set ups for fight scenes. That's all it ever leads to and heads toward. And those fight scenes are... fine. The filmmakers made CHOICES for these scenes. There's a slightly sped up one, one where the fighters are injured or debilitated in someway, there's multiple instances of super slo mo, there's many fights and they're all kind of just silly. Not silly in that they're intended to be, but silly in the way that your young nephew is like, "you want to see my movie?" and you nod politely as his action figures battle it out without any reason for it beyond, "these are the bad guys, these are the good guys."
The plot is simple, but it still leaves so many huge questions unanswered, all of them around the central conflict. Sam was sent on a job. Sam completed the job. Suddenly there were men opening a door and screaming with weapons raised. Sam defends herself. Sam is in trouble. Was she supposed to let herself be killed? Was she supposed to recognize this son of an organized crime boss? Was she doing a job against a rival organized crime family? When they say it was wrong place, wrong time, why isn't that enough? The filmmakers don't seek to give us answers. The filmmakers seek to wow us with their ability toward creative violence and they needed a simple vehicle for that.
If you like films that have a lot of sequences of stylized action violence and secret organizations with innocuous names, you'll probably be fine with Gunpowder Milkshake. If you're looking for some depth between your mayhem where the unique pieces of this world and how it works are explained and your characters have John Wick levels of development and care put into them, I don't think this one's for you. Just know you won't see a review for the eventual Gunpowder Milkshake 2 on here.