Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.
Finally, a movie that actually IS cool, instead of one that keeps desperately insisting so.
"Gunpowder Milkshake" is not without misfires, but it creates one hell of an explosion of fun.
"Gunpowder Milkshake" will remind you of other, perhaps better, films...but that's OK. The elevator pitch might have been: "It's John Wick meets Kill Bill," and even if it doesn't feel wholly original, it does still manage to feel fresh...and those two films are wildly popular. It's an almost cartoonishly-violent romp, an action film where women hold all the power, and director Navot Papushado does a great job of keeping things in a particular lane, tonally...if nothing else, "Gunpowder Milkshake" feels very consistent throughout.
From an original script from Papushado and Ehud Lavski, the movie takes place in a dingy, neon-lit underworld, where criminals and low-lifes thrive. Sam (Karen Gillan, Nebula from the MCU films) is a hired assassin, following in the footsteps of her mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey, Cersei from "Game of Thrones"), who all but disappeared from her life years earlier. While working a job for Nathan (Paul Giamatti) and the mysterious organization made up of all-white men known as The Firm, she kills the son of a notorious mob boss, Jim (Ralph Ineson), who vows revenge. On her very next job, she befriends a child, Emily (Chloe Coleman, recently seen in the "My Spy" remake) who she vows to protect, even against the wishes of those who hired her.
Those familiar with the "John Wick" universe, will immediately recognize the similarities. In that film, there was a hotel specifically for assassins that acted as sort of a "neutral" area for the criminal underworld. In "Gunpowder Milkshake," a local diner is such a location, where guns are not permitted...there is a special hospital where crooks can go to get mended, and there is a massive library where one can "check out" various guns and weapons. The three bad-ass female librarians (Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett) assist Sam, since they used to all be good friends with her mother. The movie never tells us if these locations are simply "underground" or secret from the outside world, or if the "Gunpowder Milkshake" universe is set in some sort of fantasy, alternate-reality realm where this is just how things are. It sort of works that we are left to fill in this particular blank.
The violence is particularly gory, but in that "Kill Bill" sort of way, where it is so over-the-top that you find yourself somehow laughing at the carnage. There are some action sequences that don't work quite as well but others (like a massive battle inside the library) that work wonderfully. All of the participants in this film take their jobs and this situation incredibly seriously, which allows for lots of deadpan (no pun intended) humor.
Also featured is a killer (again, no pun intended) soundtrack, the kind of soundtrack that adds all kinds of style and coolness to the on-screen activities (unlike the recent "Cruella," for example, which was an example of a soundtrack that wanted desperately to be cool). "Gunpowder Milkshake" still feels more like an homage to other films though than it does an original new tale, but there is no denying that this soundtrack most definitely stands on its own.
Movies with these sort of strong female characters simply didn't exist in year's past. There is some irony that this film comes from two male writers and a male director, but "Gunpowder Milkshake" unapologetically makes the case that this is a woman's world...us men are just living in it. And The Firm best beware, because the story was left open just enough where I wouldn't be surprised to see Sam and company back in action down the road.
"Gunpowder Milkshake" also has the coolest title of the year, and despite its flaws, you'll find yourself wanting to slurp up every last drop...it's a dessert of a film, and one worth indulging in.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime.
Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes.
Starring: Karen Gillan, Chloe Coleman, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, Paul Giamatti, Ralph Ineson.
Co-Written and Directed by Navot Papushado ("Big Bad Wolves").
"Gunpowder Milkshake" is on Netflix on Friday, July 14th, 2021.