Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Navot Papushado
Stars: Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Paul Giamatti, Carlaa Gugino, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Chloe Coleman, Michael Smiley, Ralph Ineson.
If you liked films such as John Wick and the recent Nobody, with their kinetic mix of relentless action, brutal violence and a high body count, then you’ll also enjoy this hyper colourful, violent and bruisingly entertaining slice of neo-noir pulp fiction and rollercoaster ride that can best be described as Tarantinoesque. Gunpowder Milkshake is the creation of Israeli filmmaker Navot Papushado (Rabies, etc).
Sam (played by Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Karen Gillan) is a top assassin who learned her craft from her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), who vanished fifteen years earlier. Now she works for the mysterious organisation known as The Firm, run by Nathan (Paul Giamatti). The Firm is a shady organisation that seems to control all the assassins in this shadowy underworld. But her latest assignment goes wrong when she kills the son of a top gangster (Ralph Ineson). To make amends, Nathan sends her on another assignment – to retrieve the fortune stolen by one of the Firm’s own crooked accountants, David (Samuel Anderson), who has stolen the money in order to pay the ransom for his daughter who has been kidnapped by rival gangsters. But things quickly get messy, and Sam finds herself having to care for the dead accountant’s eight-year-old daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman, from Little Lies).
Hunted by an army of heavily armed goons and denied the protection of the Firm, Sam has no choice but to turn for help from “the Librarians”, some former associates of her mother. These librarians though are not your typical bookish types. Their library is actually a depository of some lethal weaponry. Anna-May (Angela Bassett), the bookish Madeline (Carla Gugino) and Florence (Michelle Yeoh) reluctantly agree to help Sam and Emily. And then there is a prickly reconciliation between Sam and Scarlet just in time for a final bloody showdown.
Gunpowder Milkshake has been written by director Papushado and first-time screen writer Ehud Lavski and it has clearly been influenced by the likes of John Wick and the films of Tarantino and John Woo with its stylish and inventive use of violence. Like John Wick, the characters here exist in a violent world which seems to operate under its own set of rigid rules. There is also a place where weapons are not permitted, and which guarantees sanctuary to a variety of killers – but rather than the luxury hotel of that series here it is an old-fashioned neon lit 50s style diner.
The film has been directed with flair and a sense of relentless energy by Papushado. The carefully choreographed carnage is accompanied by some classic rock songs from the likes of Janis Joplin and The Animals, that further adds to its surreal nature. But it is also accompanied by an irreverent dose of humour as well. The superb production design from David Scheunemann (Atomic Blonde, etc) which creates this bizarre criminal underworld is a highlight as he creates the retro style 50s like diner and bowling alley, a sterile secret hospital for criminals, and the opulent library that provides the backdrop for a massive shootout. The neon-coloured visual aesthetic and the stylish cinematography from New Zealander Michael Seresin (War For The Planet Of The Apes, etc) further enhance the film’s distinctive tone. Despite its quintessential American looking locations, the film was actually shot in a studio in Berlin.
This is a flashy but disposable femalecentric variation on action films like John Wick and its ilk with strong characters who drive the action, but is rather thin on plot and originality. Gillan proves herself a proficient and indestructible butt kicking heroine in a role that is physically demanding. Bassett, Gugino and Yeoh all provide solid support although their characters are fairly underdeveloped. Giamatti brings his usual sleazy and smarmy quality to his role. And Coleman is fantastic as the precocious Emily and she shares a great chemistry with Gillan.
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