Girls are vicious fighters. They’re resourceful, clever and incredibly athletic. They also have the tactical advantage of using their looks to seduce men, adding yet another weapon to their ever-expanding arsenal. But you wouldn’t think it after watching Gunpowder Milkshake.
This generic John Wick wannabe is anything but explosive, producing a tepid, forgettable thriller that’s all style and no substance.
That’s a shame because Gunpowder Milkshake does have some nice ideas at its core. The premise itself feels like a blend of Promising Young Woman, John Wick and Kingsman. However, Netflix’s latest flick takes the worst aspects of all three films and squeezes them together with a sprinkling of Ghostbusters 2016.
Much like the all-female reboot of that beloved franchise, Gunpowder Milkshake takes the safe and unimaginative route of portraying all its females as the good guys and all men as the lacklustre, bumbling bad guys.
At the centre of this black and white conflict is Samantha, a woman who works for “the firm” after her Mother Scarlet disappeared 15 years prior. Sam has now taken her mother’s place as a ruthless assassin. Unfortunately, a botched mission leads to crime boss Jim McAlester’s son accidentally killed. Predictably, his father is out for revenge.
To complicate matters further, a bout of misfortune sees Samantha tasked with looking after 8-year-old Emily while her Father David is rushed to hospital.
What follows is a blood-soaked crusade as Samantha battles through disposable goons, eventually teaming up with the Sisterhood (a trio of librarians/assassins) and a familiar face from the past.
The story here is generic, to say the least, and the character writing is pretty poor all round. There is absolutely no depth to most of the supporting characters and you’ll notice the twist reveal a mile off. Unlike other action films in this genre like Kill Bill or John Wick, this movie can’t fall back on its action to save it.
The set pieces that are on display are awkwardly choreographed, poorly edited and just plain clumsy. There’s one scene at a bowling alley where three men each stand around waiting to take turns in trading blows with Samantha. Another time, an entire army go blasting into a library guns-first while never bothering to flank the place or using their wits.
The only imaginative fight here comes from a hospital scene where Samantha has her arms paralyzed. While still haphazardly shot, the action is at least a little tense and uses some imagination – something this film is sorely lacking.
It doesn’t help either that the humour is so misplaced that it diminishes any tension these scenes could have conjured. To make matters worse, there are numerous moments in this where actors stand around awkwardly waiting to read out their lines. Don’t get me wrong, the cast do an okay job here when they do speak but this feels more like a B-movie than a 30-million-dollar project.
One thing that Gunpowder Milkshake does get right however, is its aesthetic. This is one good looking movie. The neon lights, the vibrant colours and the general set design are all fantastic. The soundtrack is equally as endearing, with a recognizable little motif cropping up in the score to complement the tone of this. It really is great stuff but it’s a pity this doesn’t translate across to the movie and its story.
There are a lot of revenge thrillers out there and Gunpowder Milkshake is certainly one of them. Behind the glitzy style on offer is a film that doesn’t have much to say beyond the tired and cliched “Girls are good. Boys are bad.” In the end, the film’s style is good, but the substance is bad.
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