“Can I lighten your load?” Gunpowder Milkshake made its way to Netflix this summer with a starry all-female cast and some flashy style; however, when it comes down to it, the film is nothing more than a John Wick clone. Since John Wick made its way into theaters back in 2014, the film is notable for changing the way action movies are made. These days, rarely do you get movies with a million cuts per second to hide the stunt double during the action sequences. Plus, Wick is known for its incredible style and creating an organization called The Continental. That’s essentially the gist of what Gunpowder Milkshake is. The film centers around Sam, a 12-year-old who was trained to be an elite assassin by The Firm, a ruthless crime syndicate that her mother worked for. A big job goes wrong and all hell breaks loose, with Sam gaining help from her mother’s trusted associates: The Librarians. Gunpowder Milkshake proudly wears its John Wick roots on its sleeve; The film never hides the fact that it’s essentially a clone of the popular action series, nor does it do much to separate itself from Wick and other action films. The premise of an “assassin” being betrayed by their own kind has been done to death at this point, and Gunpowder Milkshake doesn’t even try to reinvent the wheel. Is it cool to see Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino kick some major ass? Definitely, but the film is more about style than substance.
Gunpowder Milkshake doesn’t add anything new to the genre nor will it be stuck in your minds once the credits roll. However, there’s no denying the infectious energy that comes with this movie. The gorgeous cinematography, the cool action sequences, and the fun dialogue help pull you through the nearly two-hour runtime. While the action is fun, it’s nothing special either. The big ending brawl at the library is pretty wicked and easily the best part of the film; however, it’s notable how it doesn’t really pack the tension necessary to carry it forward. There was never a time that I though Sam would die. Part of that is due to the themes of the film, namely the feminist themes. Gunpowder Milkshake doesn’t outright smack you in the face with its feminism like Charles Angels or Black Christmas; however, it’s not afraid to tell you it’s a feminist film.
Personally, I don’t understand why some filmmakers feel the need to draw a line in the sand between men vs. women. The one decent male character is really a nobody that’s killed off early in the film by Sam. Even then, the daughter of said male character never shows any compassion over the loss of her father. I know that the film makes it clear that her and the father didn’t exactly have the best relationship, but it’s still jarring that she never shows any sadness once learns that her dad is dead. I won’t go into a huge rant about the unnecessary need to make it men vs. women; however, since the film is clearly on the side of women, you never buy into the fact that Sam will die because that would give men the win. By the way, I don’t have any issues with showcasing strong women. In fact, Atomic Blonde or even Netflix’s Old Guard showcases women in a strong light. However, just like ultra-macho films where women are mostly degraded to being sluts or nobodies, a movie that feels the need to tear down men in order to make women feel strong is not a good one.
In terms of acting ability, Karen Gillan feels off in Gunpowder Milkshake; She’s mainly stone-faced throughout the entire film and there’s just no charisma and energy behind her performance. Gillan is a talented actress who’s been impressive in movies such as Jumanji and Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s clear that’s she trying to go for the emotionless assassin role here; however, it ultimately backfires since her lack of emotion does bring down the film a bit. Thankfully, her co-stars shine greatly in their roles, mainly Michelle Yeoh and Lena Headey. Chloe Coleman is pretty great in the role that she’s given as well. Did I have fun watching Gunpowder Milkshake? I did. The film was never boring and breezed by easily, despite its formulaic path. I would recommend Gunpowder Milkshake, just understand that you’ll get a John Wick clone that doesn’t do much to justify its existence.