The first trailer for Gunpowder Milkshake touted the movie as another high-octane action piece in the vein of the John Wick series. But fans who thought they were getting more of the same will be a little surprised by this new Netflix release. Karen Gillan, fresh out of her Nebula makeup from Thor: Love And Thunder, leads this highly stylized, gun-toting action thriller that packs a few punches and a lot of heart in its runtime.
Directed by Navot Papushado, Gunpowder Milkshake centers on Sam (Karen Gillan), whose assassin of a mother Scarlet (Lena Hadley of Game of Thrones fame) is forced to go on the run when Sam is only twelve. The movie catches up with Sam fifteen years later. Sam has followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming an assassin for a mysterious group known only as The Firm. Like in John Wick, much isn’t known about The Firm at the, but it does have enough resources — like its own hospital, complete with supplies for any injury their employees may get — to let viewers know that their control reaches farther than we could hope to imagine.
When a high-profile job for The Firm spins out of control, Emily (Chloe Coleman), an eight-year-old girl, ends up in the middle of an all-out gang war and Sam can’t help going rouge in an effort to save her. On the run and fearing for her life and Emily’s, Sam is lead back to Scarlet after years apart, teaming up with her and her group of friends to make it out alive with the men that The Firm’s head of HR (Paul Giamatti) sends their way.
While John Wick and other action films are known for their use of lighting and neon aesthetics, Gunpowder Milkshake nods to its influences and proceeds to veer off on its own path. There are bright pops of colors (lots of pinks and oranges here) and feminine touches added to sets to remind viewers that this isn’t your regular macho-man action movie. Brawling set pieces of blood and action are cut to 60s rock in the vein of the Kingsman series.
The movie starts to really shine halfway through after the entire cast is introduced. Fans of Lance Riddick’s Charon from John Wick will love Gunpowder Milkshakes iconic trio of librarians (played by Carla Gugino from The Haunting of Bly Manor, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett.) These three women in suits and cardigans are hiding deadly weapons in their books, ready to be used by those in their sisterhood, including Scarlet and Sam. Each librarian is unique and brings their own comedy and emotion to the table. There seem to be no small parts in Gunpowder Milkshake, as the librarians join in on the fight against The Firm and the forces that try to take Sam down.
What really sets Gunpowder Milkshake apart from its predecessors is the character of Emily. Movies like Atomic Blonde follow assassins alone on their missions, their vengeance for something already gone fueling their fight. In Gunpowder Milkshake, the exact thing Sam is fighting to protect remains with her for almost the whole runtime. With another person along for the ride, the fun is doubled.
There are sweet moments mixed in the brutal action, like Sam attempting to teach Emily to drive when her hands are paralyzed. The young girl isn’t just included for a few comedic beats, though. She constantly gets to participate in the action, albeit in a way more age-appropriate for an eight-year-old than the rollercoaster of violence that Sam and the older women experience.
But the extra gun in Gunpowder Milkshake’s holster may be its deeper themes of motherhood and sisterhood, topics rarely discussed in action movies of its caliber. While other action movies tend to focus on a singular goal or singular person’s feelings, Gunpowder Milkshake emphasizes the strength in numbers and the bonds people can share with one another.
The movie’s main emotions come from a strained relationship between mother and daughter, with a daughter coming to terms with her fears of making the same mistakes as her mother. The script may falter sometimes with a few ill-timed jokes and some predictable moments, but the story at its heart remains true throughout. The movie can add itself to the ever-growing list of female-led action movies, something we all could use a little more of.
While fans will have to wait until at least next year to see Karen Gillan dawn her costume and kick butt in Thor: Love and Thunder and even longer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunpowder Milkshake may be just the thing to sate their appetites in the meantime.
Gunpowder Milkshake is now available to stream on Netflix.
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