Gunpowder Milkshake is a dog of a film, utterly derivative and lacking in any recommendable action spectacle.
Take the weird mythology of the Johns Wick, the dipshit adolescent “feminism” of Sucker Punch, and the candy-coated pop of Birds of Prey, and you’d be close to the fatally derivative hit-woman antics of Gunpowder Milkshake, as long as you remember to add the parts about completely wasting some wonderful veteran performers and having generally crappy action sequences.
Let’s start at the beginning with Sam (Karen Gillan), who in an opening voiceover (always a red flag) explains that there’s a secret society of dudes that run everything, called The Firm (blah), and when they need some wetwork done, they call her, usually through their agent Nathan (Paul Giamatti, in the “respected older character actor paycheck” part also occupied by, say, Toby Jones in Infinite or Ian McShane in the Wicks). Quick flashback to Sam being abandoned as a teenager by her also-a-hit-woman mom Scarlet (Lena Headey), who also happened to belong to a group of other lady assassins (along with Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett) called The Sisterhood. Got all that? Sam, of course, botches an assignment, killing the son of the boss of The Firm, and winds up in the company of 8-year-old Emily (Chloe Coleman), on the lam from the patriarchal powers that be.
There’s not an ounce of this that’s not utterly derivative, and what’s worse, it’s carried off with a kind of winking detachment, an almost incredulous inability to lend any sort of gravity to its melodrama or its violence. The immediate reduction of its trained killers to the worn-out scheme of mothers and daughters (setting aside the undying, hoary, Whedon-esque trope of the killer babe who’s as tough as any man) is just pathetic. Gillan and Headey’s relationship is left to bickering and platitude, while the women of The Sisterhood are just props stuck with mouthfuls of either exposition or dull go-girl slogans.
Then there’s the action itself. While there have certainly been worse candidates in the offing lately, few of them have felt as obnoxious. Rather than furiously cutting, director (and co-writer) Navot Papushado opts for the currently fashionable long-take option, except he doesn’t have the choreography or performers to make it work. An early fight in a garishly pink bowling alley drips with flop sweat; the actors look entirely rehearsed and slow. Later sequences, like a speed-ramped dolly through mass carnage at a diner, are clearly just composited together digital streaks with no weight whatsoever. In between is an ocean of computer-generated squibs, crummy slow-motion, and relentless overuse of that move where a girl uses her legs to grab a dude by the neck and spin him off his feet. In the end, it’s all just metabolized glibness, the smug isn’t-this-edgy junk food of Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman movies with a transparently disingenuous girlboss twist.
You can currently stream Nabot Papushado’s Gunpowder Milkshake on Netflix.