Although having the coolest title of any film this year (honestly, it sounds like a Eurodance group), Gunpowder Milkshake had stylised action painted all over it, but this is also something that put me off seeing it initially. Stylised action is an amazing spectacle to watch, especially if it’s done correctly, however it is also a delicate thing to be handling and one slip up is all it takes to fall into the pit hole of formulaic violence. It’s a hole that nearly all that fall into never get out of again and now this hole has to make space for Gunpowder Milkshake because although the action is certainly eye-catching, in the back of our heads we know that we’ve seen it all before.
But before I unlock that negativity, let me take a moment just to express how kick-ass the action can feel. Someone recently told me that they believe the pace of the action should also determine the pace of the cinematography. Sounds like a pretty reasonable conclusion, doesn’t it? You can look to films like The Raid series as a prime example of this in action. But there is also to argument that too many angles spoil the scene, with Taken 3’s iconic fence jump or the Resident Evil films as proof of this. Thankfully, Gunpowder Milkshake has the brains to maintain the tempo of its energy and transfer it into some very creative action sequences that makes equally creative use of a variety of props. The big shootout in a library that happens towards the end of the film is particularly delightful for the visual palate.
But of course, as we all know, creative action counts for nothing if you don’t understand why someone is fighting in the first place. Although on the surface, Gunpowder Milkshake is chock-full of MacGuffins being chased one after another, the theme of mother/daughter relationships at the heart of it beats strongly. We catch on very quickly that our main protagonist Sam (Karen Gillan) is very distant from her assassin mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), so with that context, we can easily identify what’s actually going on in the relationship Sam and the films main MacGuffin Emily (Chloe Coleman). It’s the chance for Sam to be the mother figure to Emily that she never got from Scarlet. Simple, easy to understand and essential for the audience becoming invested in the dynamic between the two.
Now that’s all fine and well having good action and a character relationship that isn’t tedious, but Gunpowder Milkshake is not as creative as you might think, the film is actually incredibly formulaic with a killing blow that is reputation killing. I guarantee when you ask about this film, people are going to describe it to you by saying “It’s like John Wick, but with women”. There’s inspiration and there’s mimicking, and make no mistake, Gunpowder Milkshake is most certainly trying to mimic John Wick’s success. It even has its own secret assassin world that runs the show which I could not begin to care for simply because I don’t know how it works. All we’re told is that there is this organisation called The Firm who hire assassins to kill people, that’s it. We don’t know how far this network runs, nor if there are any rules. We should be impressed by how deep The Firm goes in this world but we’re too busy being distracted by all the John Wick knockoffs.
Where John Wick could have a consistent tone, Gunpowder Milkshake is too experimental with how scenes should feel. A prime example of this is three goons hired by The Firm to take out Sam. Firstly, I have no idea what these men are called and frankly neither does the film. Secondly, these three men are first introduced as the tough guys of The Firm to which they quickly become punching bags for Sam. Thirdly, they soon become The Three Stooges when they are recovering from getting beat up by Sam and high on laughing gas. I have no idea what these characters are supposed to be because they keep switching purposes. The final nail in the coffin came when I was thinking of how these men were like The Three Stooges, and five minutes later, the film itself references it. It’s like it’s self-aware of its own faults.
Talking of faults, Although I believe Karen Gillan really is giving it her all in this performance, she doesn’t exactly strike you as being a deadly assassin. Maybe it’s still the Doctor Who fan in me, but I believe she has been seriously miscast in this film. Sure, her time as Nebula in the MCU may convince people otherwise but for me, I don’t think she has perfected that kick-ass attitude you want from a role like this. It was a big risk that unfortunately doesn’t pay off and is too soon, I would much rather have seen Karen Gillan warm her way into a role like this instead of being pushed into it.
There’s no judgement if familiarity is your cup of tea, the familiar is a safe place, somewhere we can satisfy our cinematic cravings, but you can’t achieve the same satisfaction levels by simply imitating, you have to take something that already exists and do something different. You wouldn’t put up with two different products that provide essentially the same service, you want to know how one does it better than the other, and there’s no evidence of Gunpowder Milkshake even attempting to do something like this. The action, while stylish, has already been seen before, much like most elements of this film. I can see Gunpowder Milkshake continuing in some way but hopefully not as a film. I think there would be a decent future for it as a graphic novel series, this way we can actually get some devotion to the world that this film fails to make exciting.
Final Result: 3/10 – Poor
Have you seen Gunpowder Milkshake? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: The Green Knight