Directed by: Navot Papushado
Premise: A contract killer (Karen Gillan) takes in an orphaned girl (Chloe Coleman) whose father ran afoul of her employer. The assassin and her charge become the target of mobsters who are out for revenge.
What Works: Gunpowder Milkshake is primarily a style piece. Everything about the visual design of this film impresses. The sets and costumes as well as the lighting and color saturation are pitched in a way that gives Gunpowder Milkshake a vivid visual texture similar to a comic book. The look of everything in this movie is unified in a way that shows remarkable craftsmanship and focus. Gunpowder Milkshake is also impressively shot and edited. The action, of which there is quite a lot, is staged in ways that keep the screen direction intelligible. This isn’t just a flurry of punches and gunfire; the action is orchestrated like a dance number. A minor but relevant detail is the accumulation of injuries; unlike a lot of superheroes, the characters of Gunpowder Milkshake get injured and disheveled and those details add some credibility to the action. The film also benefits from its cast who are in tune with the style of the movie. Gunpowder Milkshake is led by Karen Gillan who is tough but likable as the contract killer. She’s well paired with Chloe Coleman as the orphaned girl. Their relationship gives this plastic fantasy a touch of human reality. The supporting characters of Gunpowder Milkshake are also colorful, especially a trio of arms dealers played by Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett.
What Doesn’t: Gunpowder Milkshake revisits the well-worn scenario of the assassin who takes in an orphaned youngster. It’s been done before and done better, namely in Leon: The Professional, and Gunpowder Milkshake doesn’t bring anything new to the conceit. Part of the problem is the way the child is reduced to a MacGuffin. Although actor Chloe Coleman gives her character life and personality, the young character isn’t given anything meaningful to do. Gunpowder Milkshake looks great but the movie is ultimately superficial. The filmmakers strike a feminist pose but there’s nothing more to the movie than that. It doesn’t say anything about violence or about the status of women and girls. In the course of the story, Karen Gillan’s character is reunited with her mother, played by Lena Headey. The mother-daughter material doesn’t make much impact. They’ve been separated for years but there’s little baggage for them to overcome and the family theme is flat.
DVD extras: Currently on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Gunpowder Milkshake is an amusing piece of shoot-’em-up action. It succeeds primarily on its style but this is a shallow piece of work. The characters are thin and the film’s play for feminist cred comes up short.
Episode: #861 (July 25, 2021)