Possible spoilers ahead!
Co-written and directed by Navot Papushado, the new Netflix movie “Gunpowder Milkshake” follows the story of a contract killer named Sam (Karen Gillan) who works for a crime syndicate known as The Firm. You could say that Sam is following the family tradition, because fifteen years earlier, Sam’s mom Scarlet (Lena Headey), was also an employee of the Firm. But she was forced to abandon her daughter after killing a Russian criminal put a bounty on her head. Left with no other choice, Scarlet left Sam in the care of the Firm’s HR representative, Nathan (Paul Giamatti).
Back to the present day where Sam ends up in the middle of a dangerous situation following a job gone wrong. The Firm decides Sam is expendable, which is bad enough, but now she also has to protect eight-year-old Emily (Chloe Coleman), from assassins who are after them. For help, Sam goes to the Librarians, (Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino) a trio of highly skilled assassins who were once Scarlet’s friends.
The core of “Gunpowder Milkshake” is about Sam taking care of a recently orphaned kid. That kind of plot has been done countless times in television and film, but this movie stands out because of its stylish action sequences. Director Navot Papushado set the action in various places from a hallway, to a library, a diner, and more. I also enjoyed the way Papushado used music during the action scenes, especially in the final act.
In the first half of the movie, there’s even a great car chase where young Emily has to help Sam drive the car after Sam was injected with something that paralyzed her arms. Like many other action directors, Papushado employs slow-motion, but only where it’s appropriate, allowing the audience to see more of the action than we normally would.
As far as performances go, Karen Gillan is phenomenal as Sam. Gillan plays the part with a lot of emotion and charisma. There are times during the movie where you feel what Sam is going through in that scene. Other emotions like the feeling of abandonment, and always trying to make her father figure (Nathan) proud are things many people can relate to. And even though Sam is a hired killer, we sympathize with her and what she’s going through.
The film’s supporting cast is pretty badass too, with Lena Headey and Angela Bassett stealing every scene they’re in. I got the feeling there was more to their relationship, but it’s never really addressed likely due to time. Meanwhile, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino are great too. Both ladies get some killer action in, but I particularly loved the interactions between all three librarians.
Their different personalities lead to some nice humor, including a scene where Gugino tells Bassett not to swear because 8-year-old Emily is in the room. So instead, Bassett says “fudge” with so much frustration that it made my wifey laugh out loud. Yeoh is a legend, but I wish she’d had more screen time. I’m a huge fan of Gugino and she didn’t disappoint here. But to be honest I’d be happy listening to her read an instruction manual.
The only complaint I have about “Gunpowder Milkshake” is that there isn’t much world-building done. We know Sam’s story and that both she and her mom worked for the Firm. But we don’t know much of what the organization does or even who hires them. The film doesn’t even say where it takes place, or why there are zero cops during all the mayhem we see in the film. If there is a sequel I would like to see more world-building so that we can get a sense of what else is going on in this place.
Overall though, I enjoyed “Gunpowder Milkshake.” Sam and the other characters are fun, the action is stylish and pops off the screen. This was pure popcorn fun and after the tension of “A Quiet Place Part II” and the disappointment of “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” this movie was exactly what I needed.
“Gunpowder Milkshake” finals grade B+