Netflix film “Gunpowder Milkshake” is drenched in style and mood, but it seriously deficient in terms of spunk and substance to distinguish itself from other similar genre flicks such as “John Wick” (2014) and its recent sequels. While there are some entertaining moments mainly thanks to the game efforts from its main cast members, the movie will not surprise or impress you much as plodding from one expected moment to another, and you will soon forget it once it is over.
Karen Gillan, who has been mainly known for her notable supporting turn in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) and its subsequent 2017 sequel, plays Sam, a female professional assassin working for a criminal organization which is simply called “The Firm”. At the beginning, we see Sam handling her latest job with swift and ruthless proficiency, and the following flashback scene shows her painful separation from her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), who was also a professional assassin working for the Firm. As settling her old score, Scarlet consequently caused a big problem for not only her daughter but also the Firm, and she had no choice but to go into hiding alone while her daughter was left to her former handler Nathan (Paul Giamatti).
So far, Sam has been a fairly good employee under Nathan’s guidance and protection, but, unfortunately, she happens to cause a big problem just like her mother did a long time ago. When her latest mission turns out to be messier than expected, she has to eliminate a bunch of guys besides her main targets, and one of them happens to be someone quite dear to the leader of a rival criminal organization in the city. Once Nathan comes to learn of this serious mishap, he and other senior members of the organization quickly gather for an emergency meeting, and it goes without saying that they eventually decide to give away Sam for avoiding any more trouble.
Meanwhile, Sam is assigned to another job to be handled as soon as possible. Some plain accountant indirectly associated with the Firm ran away with lots of money, and it does not take much time for her to track down this person in question, but, of course, the situation turns out to be more complicated than expected. The money was stolen because this person has to pay the ransom for this person’s little daughter within a short time, and Sam decides to help getting the daughter back for this person, though she happens to injure this person quite seriously before making that decision.
As you have probably expected in advance, things really get messier for Sam once she tries to rescue that young girl from her kidnappers, who turn out to be quite sloppy in many aspects. Thanks to these clumsy and ineffectual criminals, Sam eventually finds herself facing more troubles, and she also has to decide what she should do about Emily (Chloe Coleman), that young girl who is fortunately rescued by her in the end.
As Sam and her unexpected young partner move from one spot another spot, the screenplay by director Navot Papushado and his co-writer Ehud Lavski attempts to build up a heavily stylized world around Sam and Emily. There is a small diner which is a sort of neutral zone for all the criminal figures in the city, and there is also a neat exclusive hospital not so far from the main background of “Hotel Artemis” (2018), another recent movie which also tried to emulate what was so amusingly established in “John Wick” and its recent sequels.
The most entertaining part in the film comes from a very special library run by a trio of ladies, each of whom turns out to have each own particular set of skills behind their unflappable appearance. While their main job is providing or disposing various weapons, these ladies are also capable of quick and brutal actions just like Sam (Is this a spoiler?), and they and a certain other character in the story surely stick together for Sam and Emily later in the story, even though they could simply choose to do nothing at all.
During the second half, the movie throws lots of physical actions into the screen as required, but the overall result is not accompanied with much dramatic impact because of many deficient aspects of the film. Although Gillan tries really hard to sell her character in addition to throwing herself willingly into a number of intense action scenes, her character is mostly devoid of life and personality to engage us, and her character’s personal drama along the story is bland and predictable to the core. At least, she and her young co-star Chloe Coleman click well together in several key scenes of theirs, but the movie does not handle their characters’ developing relationship that well, and that is another disappointment in the film.
In case of the other main cast members in the film, some of them have juicier moments in comparison. While Michael Smiley, Ralph Ineson, and Paul Giamatti are regrettably under-utilized on the whole, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett effortlessly steal the show right from their first appearance via their sheer charisma, and now I am seriously wondering whether the movie could be more interesting if it were mainly about their characters.
In conclusion, “Gunpowder Milkshake” is not as bad as I heard from other critics, but I observed its story, characters, and action scenes without much care while a bit amused from time to time, and I eventually became more frustrated with its evident paucity in case of personality and spirit. No, I do not mind the movie being another John Wick wannabe, but, folks, this disposable product only knows how to play notes, not music.