A group of women assassins with a killer cast (pun intended)
GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021)
I’m a big fan of action movies, especially ones that have a woman as the central character. Atomic Blonde, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Salt, and Hanna are a few examples that come to mind. Gunpowder Milkshake boasted a group of women assassins with a killer cast (pun intended). Although I wasn’t familiar with the work of director Navot Papushado, I was excited by the aesthetics of the trailer so I was eager to check this one out.
Action movies are difficult to execute well but Papushado does an excellent job. The movie is stamped with a style that you’ve seen before but he manages to keep it fresh and exciting. He expertly captures a fairly nuanced performance from Karen Gillan, who pulls off being a tough-as-nails assassin while showcasing a soft side simmering just below the surface. The action scenes are intense and Papushado orchestrates some extremely creative action sequences all while showering the frame with a neon hue that adds a fun tonal quality to the whole movie.
By way of a flashback fifteen years earlier we see professional assassin Scarlet (Lena Headey) being forced to go on the run and abandoning her daughter Sam. Flash forward and Sam (Karen Gillan) has followed in her mother’s footsteps and become an assassin for a group called The Firm. A job goes south and she kills the son of an important man while simultaneously becoming entangled in a kidnapping scheme and going to rescue an eight year old girl named Emily (Chloe Coleman) at a bowling alley. With every assassin in the city after her, Sam has to go on the run with Emily in tow. She enlists the help of her mother’s former allies, Madeleine (Carla Gugino), Florence (Michelle Yeoh) and Anna May (Angela Bassett). The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game of attempting to evade her would-be assassins and keep Emily safe. The plot is a bit sluggish at the beginning but it picks up about twenty minutes in and never lets off the gas. It’s a simple story but it sets the stage for some inventive action scenes and sweet moments involving Emily and Sam. This plot isn’t entirely innovative but it gets the job done.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Karen Gillan is surprisingly entirely convincing as Sam, the professional assassin. She is just quirky enough to pull off the comedic moments and just tough enough to be believable ruining guys' faces. She carries much of the movie but is helped immensely by Lena Headey who infuses Scarlet with a touch of lightness in a rather dark setting. Headey delivers some one liners that were hilarious mostly due to her delivery. She has made a habit of playing women who kick butt and she continues that here. Gugino, Bassett, and Yeoh work together supremely well and capture the levity of working in a library that is actually a front for providing guns to assassins. Even the young Chloe Coleman shines in this role, holding her own in the scenes with the older women. Overall this was an excellent cast whose performances all hit the mark.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Gunpowder Milkshake is action packed in almost every scene and the visual effects were fantastic. The brand of violence utilized by Papushado and the visual effects team reminded me of a cross between Tarantino and Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman movies. The violence is over the top and at times borders on funny. Certainly most of Karen Gillan’s fight scenes are infused with some level of comedy. At one point during a fight at a bowling alley she bowls a ball straight into a man’s head to knock him out and even does a little warm up routine first. Since the scenes are over the top, it’s easier to accept the blood flying dramatically. There’s one scene in particular that pans in slow motion across a fight scene where the visual effects team out did themselves. The visual effects enhance the fight scenes and make them even more entertaining.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Personally I loved the music. There was a great selection of oldies tunes that played behind some of the more intense action sequences that made for fun juxtapositions. For example, in the biggest fight scene involving most of the cast you hear Janis Joplin belting out 'Piece of My Heart' in the background. I enjoyed these unique pairings and thought they worked quite well. It could be that I’m partial to that era of tunes, but I think the selections made the action scenes even more interesting.
Gunpowder Milkshake certainly won’t win awards for anything. But it was incredibly entertaining to watch especially if you’re an action movie junkie. The cast was phenomenal, the story was intriguing enough to keep you watching, and the action sequences were polished. The first twenty minutes drag a bit, but if you can push past that you’re in for a real treat.