New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Gunpowder Milkshake

Gunpowder Milkshake Movies and Shakers July 15, 2021

This is a female revenge story we liken to a fairy tale with a bad ass lead and, three bad ass fairy godmothers. Israeli Writer/Director Navot Papushado pushes men vs. women cartoon-like bloody, action-brutality with a few laughs along the way. 

There’s plenty of fighting, with and without weapons, martial arts, crow bars, whatever is handy to puncture, stab, gouge, you name it. Papushado uses exploding blood capsules like penny candy. The kill shots are so prevalent that they become almost comical, somewhat entertaining way.

Karen Gillan plays Sam, (Dr. Who, Marvel movies, Jumanji)  who was abandoned years ago by Scarlet (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones, upcoming Twist), the mother and elite assassin for the crime syndicate known as The Firm. Scarlet got in trouble when she killed the wrong target. She left Sam alone in a diner when she was 12 after sharing a last milkshake. 

Mom’s been on the lam ever since, never making contact with her resentful daughter. But guess who’s following in her mother’s lethal footsteps. Sam takes assigned hits from The Firm’s manager, Nathan, (Paul Giamatti). Giamatti fills the bill as the calm messenger between the head of the firm and his henchmen. There are definite overtones of the vast, powerful underworld reminiscent of the John Wick series. 

Sam takes on a brutal assignment that goes wrong when she also makes a mistake. It leaves young girl, Emily, (Chloe Coleman-TV’s Big Little Lies, My Spy)  with no one left to care of her. Knowing what that’s like, Sam feels responsible for the girl. Coleman is a find. She is a competent 12 year old actress who makes the less than believable scenes, believable. Most notable is the car chase where Sam puts Emily behind the wheel. It’s well choreographed and provides good interplay and bonding.

There’s plenty of fighting, with and without weapons, martial arts, crow bars, whatever is handy to puncture, stab, gouge, you name it. Papushado uses exploding blood capsules like penny candy. The kill shots are so prevalent that they become almost comical, and not in a bad way. The blood flows like wine, and so does threatening dialogue from a plethora of villains including Ed Burch as the lead Russian Thug, Ralph Ineson as Jim McAlester, Jack Bandeira as Crow and too many more to name. Dr. Ricky (Michael Smiley) is scary in his own friendly way. 

Papushado (Big Bad Wolves, Rabies) wrote the dialogue with Ehud Lavski which is somewhat awkward throughout. It doesn’t always follow and is often just disgustingly brutal methods of torture said out loud to scare their victims, not that you don’t see some of it come to fruition. Games of hide and seek leading to action-packed battles are relentless.

What’s interesting, is what Papushado uses for locations. The diner itself is 50’s vintage. Then there is a slick looking bowling alley in blue and pink, symbolically male vs. female as Sam dukes it out against an alley full of thugs using every kind of punch, kick and weapon to try to take her down. Another  elongated one-against-many battles takes place in a garage. And then there’s the magnificent 2-story “Library”set with three very seriously sober female librarians.  They appear stereotypical, down to their occasionally putting finger to lips saying “Shhhh.” 

These three A-list actresses playing the librarians, Anna May, Florence and Madeleine (Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino respectively) are capable defenders when battles break out. There’s a great deal of food for thought, and action there as the books become props hiding useful tools as weapons for the fight scenes.  But effective dialogue is lacking. It leaves too much dead air in between a few tongue-in-cheek lines from the older women. Still, they are underutilized and awkward leading up to and in some of the choreographed action scenes. Angela Bassett is the baddest of this bunch, but Yeoh and Guigno hold their own. These are Disney-reminiscent Fairy Godmothers who know Sam and her mother well. Papushado turns them from sedate to ferocious mama bears, determined as ever to protect their girls.

We weren’t sure what to make of it, at first, with all the ulta-stylized violence. But it became somewhat entertaining, even though a little unevenly paced. Gillan gives her all in the role, but seems sometimes too sentimental to be the vicious killer she plays. Headey is always powerful, even in the more dramatic scenes which try to have the film resonate love and loyalty to family. This is an unexpected, action-packed film, with some thematic similarities Marvel’s Black Widow. And just like a Marvel franchise, it looks like Sam might be locked and loaded for a sequel. 

Netflix         1Hour 54 Minutes              R

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